Close your eyes and imagine those words coming from a clunky metal box hanging on your partially-open car window. Do you remember hearing them? Would they have made you dash across a gravel lot to snag another box of popcorn or that last frankfurter spinning on a hot dog roller grill before the end of the movie?
If you remember any of that, you know we’re talking about a drive-in movie theater. A popular summer pastime for decades, sadly, there are relatively few of them still operating in America. However, there are a few locations In the DC area where you can enjoy an outdoor movie screening; the drive-in at Union Park and the lot at Capitol Riverfront to name a few.
Will Drive-In Movie Theaters Return?
Perhaps as a side effect of the pandemic, drive-in movies may see a comeback. But, as we spent more time at home in the past year, we began to see just what our homes can do for us. They’ve become places to work, play, study, dine, be entertained, and get fit all at the same time.
With the availability of streaming media, we’re able to view first-run movies and much more right at home. It might not be the full “theater experience”, but in many ways it’s better. No crowds to wade through, no parking to worry about, no inflated concession stand prices. (And no clunky speakers hanging off your car window.)
Plus, technology made giant screens, home theater projectors, and studio-quality sound equipment accessible and affordable. Statistics indicate that addition of home theaters can potentially raise the property value by approximately 65% of the theater system’s cost.
The Best Seats (out of) the House
While achieving a great movie experience in a media room indoors is fine in the winter, why not take it outside now that summer beckons? You can make a DIY drive-in theater right in your own backyard, minus the driving part. Here’s what you’ll need to set one up.
- Projection Screen. Size matters! While you should take into account the size of your yard, and the distance you’ll be sitting from the screen, the recommended size for outdoor use is between 120-140 inches wide. Happily, there are outdoor projector screens made from PVC, with built-in grommets around the frame for rigging to walls, poles, trees, etc.
- Projector. In an outdoor setting you will need a projector with a brightness level of at least 3000 lumens and be 4K compatible. There is a wide selection of projectors available in many price ranges, so getting an extra one for outdoors doesn’t have to be expensive.
- Speakers and Amplifier. You can enjoy great sound outdoors, but keep in mind the campground rules of quiet after 11pm. Check if there is a decibel limit legislated in your area. 150-200-watt indoor/outdoor speakers should be sufficient, but just like your old stereo, you may need a receiver to amplify the sound. In fact, you can even use your old stereo receiver if you still have it. There are also standalone Bluetooth compatible amplifiers for use with Bluetooth speakers.
- Shelter or covering. Weather is always a factor. A PVC screen should be safe, but be sure to have a way of covering the rest of your theater equipment quickly in case of rain.
This Snack Bar Never Closes
Unlike the drive-in, your supply of snacks and drinks is unlimited, and as close as your kitchen. With home theater tech, you can even pause your movie while you get a refill. But you’ll probably want to prepare your stash of treats beforehand and keep them close by for maximum movie enjoyment. No cars required.