Nation’s First Daytime Drive-In Movie Theater Opens
You don't have to wait for the sun to go down at the drive-ins anymore.
Up until now, drive-in movie theaters could only operate at night, but at the newly opened Loco Drive-In in Loudon, Tenn., viewers can see films anytime they'd like, including during the day.
Equipped with a 35-foot by 63-foot LED video board screen, Loco Drive-In, the country's first daytime drive-in movie theater, is capable of screening films without the aid of darkness. The screen, affectionately deemed the "LoCo Tron," uses Samsung technology to display a 4K picture, similar to a traditional television. "There's no facility that we know of like this right now in the U.S... that's what Hollywood is telling us," Gordon Whitener, founder and CEO of the Whitener Company, which built and launched Loco Drive-In, told Knox News. "This will be truly unique... the drive-in will be the core, but we'll have concerts, car shows, boat shows and more."
Built over the course of the last few months, Loco Drive-In holds 400 cars and features speakers loud enough so that customers likely won't need to dial in their radios for audio. "I've had this idea for over 25 years," Whitener continued. "I've just always loved the nostalgia of the drive-in.... even though things have begun opening back up, I think people have an appreciation for doing things with their family and doing things outdoors."
Participating in outdoor activities turned out to be not only a nostalgic choice for consumers, but a financially necessary one for the film industry as a whole. When the coronavirus pandemic forced the doors of traditional movie theaters shut, the future of the movie business, like the live music business as well, appeared uncertain. Once a struggling sector of the industry, drive-in theaters began soaring in popularity across the U.S. as a safe alternative to traditional theaters.
Metallica was the biggest of several acts to simulcast special drive-in concerts last year, and musicians such as Jason Isbell, Grace Potter and Blackberry Smoke utilized the outdoor venues for in-person concerts — instead of a movie on a screen, fans watched bands from their cars.
According to CNN, during the pandemic last year drive-in theaters generated 85% of theater box office revenue while in 2019, they accounted for just 2.9% percent — an increase that effectively helped save the industry from total collapse.
For the first few weeks, Loco Drive-In will be showing classic films such as Smokey and the Bandit, Minions and Days of Thunder, with newer films to come later this summer, along with sports streams, concerts and more.