Would you pay for this drive-in upgrade?

Jay and Bella Emanuel

For all the times I’ve written about Jay Emanuel Publications, I’d never seen a photo of the man till I found this one. His wife Bella’s got a great smile, don’t you think? (Courtesy of PhotoboothJournal.com. Used by permission.)

I’ve been reading through a few old issues of Motion Picture Exhibitor. That’s a weekly magazine put out by Jay Emanuel Publications, which also published the annual Theatre Catalog. The Jan. 18, 1967 issue includes an article about an interesting new product. Allow me to transcribe:

ST. PAUL, MINN. – Drive-in movie theatres are being invited to “net increased profits” by reserving premium-priced seats with a new control console that also plays a role in concession sales.

Hollywood Loge, Inc., distributor of the “Reserva-Seat” console, which replaces a conventional speaker stand, says the console justifies higher admission charges – a 25 cent premium is suggested – and should boost concession sales during the movie. The console includes back-to-back hi-fi speakers, an integral two-way intercom to the concession stand for carhop service, and a softly lit menu display board.

Reserva-Seat consoles are limited to the best 10 per cent locations in a drive-in, generally those near the concession stand. The locations should be chosen to give patrons privacy and prestige, the company said.

“The key to increased profits,” the company explained, “is a special Reserva-Seat key that is rented to the patron at the boxoffice and entitles him to a reserved drive-in parking space. Each key is coded to a specific console. At the console the patron uses the key to turn on the hi-fi speaker. Once the key is turned it cannot be removed except by a master key; this prevents pilferage, duplication or unauthorized use.”

Touching a special Honeywell pushbutton signals the concession stand; then the order is phoned in over the speaker. Other Honeywell switches tie in the movie sound track when the key is turned, as well as turning on an “in use” light. The console also has a non-reset counter showing how many times the reserved seat has been rented. (End of article)

I’m sad to say that the article had no illustrations, but that console sounds a lot like what you’d find at a Sonic drive-in restaurant, plus keys. According to NATO (the Theatre Owners, not the Treaty Organization), the average movie ticket in 1967 was $1.22, which would make that recommended surcharge about 20 percent. Would you pay an extra $2 today for a primo reserved parking slot with carhop service? I might have tried it, but I never got the chance.

Suffice it to say, you don’t see Reserva-Seat keys anywhere, and I doubt that the idea caught on. A quick search of the trademark office turned up nothing on Reserva-Seat, alive or dead. The Minnesota Secretary of State says that Hollywood Loge, incorporated six months before this article, dissolved in 1991. Rest in peace.

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