MONTICELLO, Ind. (WLFI) — After decades of seeing a decline in customers, drive-in theaters are now seeing a shift. Dozens of drive-ins in Indiana saw a record number of people this opening weekend. But as Hollywood puts a halt on movie-making, drive-ins are expecting new challenges.
"Drive-ins have been around for a long time, their peak time was about the 50s every little town had a drive-in," said Earle McLachlan, owner of Lake Shore Drive-in Theater in Monticello.
He said the decline for drive-in movie-goers started in the 80s, that's when big movie companies started building large indoor theaters. But under this pandemic, people are making their way back to outdoor movie-lots.
"We're really seeing an increase in business because of the indoors not being able to attract the people, people just don't feel quite safe enough yet but they feel very safe out in the open air of the drive-in atmosphere," said McLachlan.
McLachlan said each movie-screening on opening-weekend brought a hundred more customers than normal. Even though the movies they're screening have been released for some time.
"There was anticipation because people want to get out they want to see a movie," said McLachlan.
While people are seeking safe activities to do outside the house, McLachlan is worried that the inability to play new movies could become a problem this season.
"We're having to play older pictures now because there are no newer pictures," said McLachlan. "Hollywood's not making anything."
He said all theaters are playing re-runs only. Movie-makers have put a halt on releasing new movies as they figure out how to recoup the millions of dollars they were expecting to make-back once the movies hit theaters.
McLachlan is hoping the desire for families to create new memories will outweigh the fact that it may be a movie they've already watched.
"We have people coming here saying, we've been married 50 years and our first date was at this drive-in movie theater," said McLachlan. "It'll always be a special niche and I think they'll stay around though.. they'll stay around."
Like bars and restaurants, drive-ins are also required to function at 50% capacity. Lake Shore drive-in's limit is 300 cars right now, pre-pandemic they could hold 600.
This weekend's movie leading up to Memorial Day include Trolls World Tour-PG, Doctor Dolittle-PG, Bad Boys III-R, Bloodshot-PG13. Find more information here.