Drive-In Owners Consider Digital

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Sun, 02/27/2011 - 19:00 -- Nick Dager

Drive-in theatre owners and operators from across the United States recently gathered to learn the latest developments in theatre technology hospitality and operations and to share their perspective on issues facing the industry at the 11th annual United Drive-in Theatre Owners Association convention. The ongoing industry conversion to digital projection was a major topic of interest.  The UDITOA wants to make sure drive-in theatres are able to convert to the new technology to ensure the long-term success of this unique entertainment option. “The drive-in theatre not only remains a time honored American icon but in a down economy still offers the best value available for family entertainment ” said John Vincent Jr. president of the UDITOA. After a long decline there are signs that drive-in theatres are making a comeback of sorts in the United States. According to UDITOA statistics there were 382 drive-in theatres in 2010 with 629 screens compared with a low of 377 theatres and 623 screens in 2008. That low followed years of steady decline with 443 theatres and 684 screens in 2000 and 402 drive-ins and 649 screens in 2005. Part of the association’s mission is to help drive-in owners sustain and grow their businesses. The UDITOA currently includes 149 owners/managers five honorary four retired and 32 associate members. They represent 153 drive-ins and 308 screens. The association held its annual convention February 7-10 in Kissimmee Florida. Vincent said National Association of Theatre Owners executive director Kathy Conroy and senior NATO staff updated the group on industry issues as well as federal and state legislative and regulatory initiatives. In return he said NATO solicited the support of UDITOA members in working with decision makers to pursue a legislative and regulatory agenda fair and favorable to motion picture exhibitors. Technical and financial challenges were reviewed according to Vincent who added that several digital projection manufacturers were present some providing hands on demonstrations. According to the UDITOA there are currently three digital drive-ins in the United States: the Galaxy Ennis Texas; the Spud Driggs Idaho; and the Solano 2 Concord California. The Spud and Solano are UDITOA members. Vincent said discussions at the convention also included vigilance in preventing movie theft supporting the Motion Picture Association of America voluntary rating system and ways in which UDITOA members can play an even larger role in contributing to the Will Rogers Institute. Vincent was also pleased to report the emergence of UDITOA as a valued participant in the prestigious Intersociety for the Enhancement of Cinema Presentation.  Intersociety members are the driving forces molding the direction of the industry and UDITOA is honored to join these distinguished organizations he said adding that UDITOA members have delivered valuable insights and unique creative solutions to the challenges inherent to the drive-in theatre industry. “From concession improvements to picking the right novelties to training our workers our members are fully invested in doing everything they can to enhance our patrons’ experience when they visit our theatres ” Vincent said. The United Drive-in Theatre Owners Association