Drive-in success story: Occasional free nights

Las Vegas 6 Drive-In Theatre signs

Signs for West Wind’s Las Vegas 6. Photo by Neon Michael from the Carload Flickr group.

I picked this up from the Santa Barbara (CA) Independent, but it really applies to all of West Wind‘s drive-in theaters in California, Nevada, and Arizona. This is a brilliant idea. Show recent, family-friendly movies for free on one special, promoted weeknight. It reminds families how much fun it is to go to the drive-in, it probably generates enough concession stand sales to cover costs, and it’s definitely worth losing a standard early-season weeknight gate. Here’s the press release, as printed in the Independent:

As they have done every year for the last several years, the Santa Barbara Drive-In is hosting Customer Appreciation Night with free movies to the public on Thursday, April 25, 2013.

Drive-In theaters across the country are benefiting from a resurgence in demand with revenues outpacing traditional “walk-in” theaters by a wide margin. Drive-in movie attendance is up by double digits again this year and the West Wind Santa Barbara Drive-In has reaped the benefits.

Patrick LaCava, Senior Vice President of Operations explains that “value seems to be the major reason drive-ins are growing.” Tickets to the drive-in are only $7.00 per adult, and kids 5-11 years old are just $1.00, while kids 4 and under are free. Plus, you get double features each night, instead of just one movie at the indoor theaters. LaCava continues “A family of four with young children can see two first run movies for $14.00, or $16.00 if you have kids between 5-11 years old.”

If you think drive-ins are dead, think again. “Business is so good, we’ve reopened drive-ins. Five years ago we reopened the Solano Drive-In in Concord, CA and three years ago we reopened this one in Santa Barbara after being closed for 19 years“ according to LaCava.

Tony Maniscalco, Vice President of Marketing is thrilled that people are re-discovering the family fun of the drive-in. “Parents bring their kids to watch the first movie then the kids fall asleep in the back seat while the parents watch the second movie. It’s the perfect baby sitter.”

Drive-ins presentation has changed considerably over the years yet the nostalgic feeling remains. Improvements in presentation and sound that now rivals walk-in along with delicious well-known brands at a fraction of the cost you find at conventional theatres are just part of the draw. There’s still that great old school vibe in a family friendly and updated location.

The West Wind Drive-Ins are taking this great value one step further with Free Movie Customer Appreciation Night on Thursday, April 25, featuring recent movie blockbusters Wreck It Ralph and Jack the Giant Slayer. “We are opening up our drive-ins as we do a few times every year to thank our loyal customers and to invite those who have not yet experienced the drive-in to give it a try. We typically show first run movies every night but on Customer Appreciation Night we give everyone a chance to catch up on the best movies of the past few months.” Maniscalco explains. “Relax in your car or bring a chair and a blanket and enjoy your movie under the stars and moonlight” adds LaCava.