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Every once in a while, someone asks me where they could build a new drive-in. In the olden days, the answer was pretty simple: On the highway out of town, just past the city limits. Now it’s more complicated. Here is my list of the factors when evaluating a new drive-in site:
- Are there people around? Farmland in the middle of nowhere is cheap, but there probably aren’t enough customers willing to drive far enough to watch a movie, then drive all the way home.
- Is civilization expanding in the site’s direction? If rings of suburbs are spreading thataway, then it might not be many years before the taxable land value will skyrocket, leaving the choice of extra overhead or selling out.
- Are utilities available? The site needs to be close enough to water and electricity to hook up without too much extra expense.
Add these up, and you’ll see that the ideal site is close to a decent population center, but on a parcel that would be difficult to develop into anything else. I happen to have a pretty good example, 2175 River Road, Grand Junction CO. Take a look. It’s right next to major highways. It’s within the city limits. It’s bounded by the interstate highway and a wastewater treatment plant. (Hope the evening breezes are okay.) Grand Junction is large enough to support a minor-league baseball team, but its closest drive-in is 46 miles away in Delta.
Apparently, this plot is currently being used as storage by a company that sells trailers, mainly horse trailers. I have no idea who owns it, whether they’d be willing to sell or lease it, and even whether there are any utilities already serving that drive-in-shaped piece of land. But you’ve got to admit, it’s a fine example.
Now it’s your turn. You know your region better than I do. Look over a map and find something similar – a piece of land big enough for a drive-in, close enough for patrons and utilities, but homely enough for other builders to leave it alone. When you spot a good one, either start building or leave a comment here so we can all look it over. Maybe one of us can plant the seed that will sprout into a new drive-in theater.