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Drive-in movie theaters making a comeback

07/23/2023 9:06 AM | Donna Saunders


PUBLISHED 10:45 AM ET JUL. 08, 2023


HAMILTON, Ohio — New movie releases are not just driving people back to indoor theaters but they're also helping give outdoor theaters a comeback.

What You Need To Know

  • Local drive-in theater owners said movie-goers started coming back during the pandemic, and new movie releases are keeping the crowds coming 
  • Owners of the Holiday Drive-in Theater said they plan to continue to upgrade equipment to play high-quality shows but are planning to keep the long-time feel 

  • Statistics show there are 24 drive-in theaters left in Ohio 

For the Blue family, the lawn chairs, blankets, candy and the big screen are traditions.

“I went to the drive-in growing up,” said Robert Blue. 

It’s a tradition he said they’re passing down to their kids. 

“When I first started coming they were two, maybe,” said mother Kristen Blue.

They’re not alone. Cars packed with families still line up to watch a movie at the Holiday Drive-in Theater in Hamilton.

“I pass that tradition down to my friends. Now we go here just to like hang out and talk and watch the movie,” said Holiday Drive-in employee Meagan Sams. 

Sams works concessions at the theater and wanted to make it her job after growing up going to the drive-in. 

“Being able to see people walk in and have that kind of like, ‘oh my god, it still looks like this’…it’s kind of a rare find,” said Sams. 

Numbers show there were about 4,000 drive-ins across the country in the late ‘50s. Now, there’s a about 300 left in the U.S. and 24 of those are in Ohio.

Todd Chancey, co-owner of the Holiday Drive-in, said while the film industry took a hit and indoor movie theaters closed up shop, the pandemic might have been what helped the drive-in business. 

“When COVID happened, all new movies stopped and their releases were delayed or their productions were delayed. However, we were fortunate to be given the clearance to open in May of 2020, and we were the only theater open. So we were playing older movies, the ‘Jurassic Park’ movies, ‘Beetlejuice’, some Disney movies, and we were selling out,” said Chancey. 

He said they haven’t slowed down since, with newer movies hitting the big screen and families consistently stopping through. It’s now become an almost 90-year-old tradition. 

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