Maxine Yankey remembers days when the entire family piled into
the car and saw a movie, sometimes for only $1. The family went
almost every week to a drive-in movie, mom and dad watching from
the front while the kids fell asleep in the back.
Then, “it just kind of faded, like a lot of things fade,” Yankey
Drive-in movie theatres, which reached their peak in the 1950s,
began closing in rapid numbers during the 1970s and 1980s. They
may, however, be in a renaissance, with more drive-ins opening than
closing since the 1990s.
This summer was the best summer for the Holiday Twin Drive-in in
Fort Collins in Jason Higgins’s nine years, said Higgins, manager
of the drive-in.
“Every year’s gotten better and better,” Higgins said.
Starting in the 60s, drive-ins faced obstacles ranging from VCRs
to Daylight Savings Time. Daylight Savings Time is partially
responsible for the closing of 90 percent of America’s drive-ins,
according to the Web site of the Cinderella Twin Drive-in in
This is because drive-ins cannot start movies until after
sunset. With Daylight Savings Time, the time of sunset is later,
and families are less willing to bring their children to a late
movie at the drive-in.
For Yankey, another reason for the drop in drive-ins was growing
“We came in to a time when there was at least one TV in every
home,” she said. “We do our clustering together at home instead of
In the late 70s, drive-in screens became like “dinosaurs,”
“When the drive-in in Loveland closed, the big screen sitting
out there became a skeleton that we’d drive past,” she said.
Colorado currently has 12 operating drive-ins, with 18 screens,
according to the United Drive-In Theatre Owners Association Web
site. Nationwide, there are 405 drive-ins. In 1958, the biggest
year for drive-ins, there were more than 4,000.
In July, News4 in Denver reported that the Cinderella Twin may
be closing, due to redevelopment but not due to failing business.
This is a possibility, but not confirmed, according to the
drive-in’s Web site. Management at the drive-in was not available
for further comment.
Drive-ins offer a lot of benefits, Higgins said. Families can
take children who can fall asleep in the backseat, friends can talk
without disturbing the person next to them and at the Holiday Twin,
two first-run movies are only $5 per adult, compared to $7 or $8
for a single movie at an indoor theatre.
“Plus, it’s the outdoors,” Higgins said. “Especially here in
Colorado, you can watch a movie and enjoy the outdoors at the same
Drive-ins, and their prices in particular, may be especially
appealing to college students.
“College students never have any money,” Higgins said. “They can
still see first-run films.”
Whether or not drive-ins continue to multiply and expand, they
will remain an important part of American culture, Higgins
“These are some of the last pieces of history,” he said. “It’s
part of Americana.”