Drive-Ins Make A Comeback

Ousted Honduras' President Manuel Zelaya looks on during a press conference at the international airport of Comalapa, El Salvador, Sunday, July 5, 2009. Zelaya, who was kept from landing in Honduras' main airport Sunday because the runway was blocked by soldiers with military vehicles, took part in a news conference in El Salvador late Sunday, in which he asked the Honduran military to 'stop pointing your weapons towards your own brothers". (AP Photo/Luis Romero). AP Photo/Luis Romero

(This program originally aired Sunday April 9, 2006)
Drive-in theaters, those beloved pop culture icons of yesteryear were nearly extinct, but are now making something of a comeback.

Last weekend workers scrambled to ready the new showboat drive-in theater in Hockley, Texas for the grand opening.

The theater is a family affair, co-owned by brothers Chris and John Rumfolo.

"We're the whole crew," John says.

But isn't opening a drive-in theater in this day and age sort of like opening a Typewriters R Us? asks CBS Sunday Morning contributor Bill Geist.

"We're nostalgic. Our whole country is nostalgic," John says, adding that when he applied for a loan, the bank though "I was nuts."

Now that they'd built it, would people come? They did -- in droves. They had to turn cars away.

For those that got inside, they hit the snack bar hard. You can't get big burgers at indoor theaters, not to mention dill pickles and chili cheese fries.

Children played on the grass in front of the big screen just like the old days. It's a good place to bring the kids.

The young come for the adventure. They seem to like that you can talk during the movie.

The older folks simply come to remember.

One big improvement is drive-in's show first-run movies now, rather than the last-run variety. And today's popular pick up trucks and big SUVs easily convert to rolling family rooms or bedrooms.

At their peak in the 50s there were more than 4,000 drive-in theaters in America, 388 in Texas, but that 388 dwindled to 11 in the year 2000, but is now back up to 21.

Now Texas is the epicenter of the drive-in boom. The Showboat in Hockley is just the latest.

Business is booming at the old Texas drive-ins, too, like the Brazos, open since 1952.

No one predicted this resurgence.

Drive-ins were almost as close to extinction as the wooly mammoths in tonight's movie, "Ice Age: The Meltdown."

Eating snacks, sitting together as a family or with your partner wrapped in blankets on a slightly cool spring evening under a crescent moon afloat on the starry Texas sky, it is easy to see why drive-ins are making a comeback. The better question seemed to be: how could this have ever gone out of style?
  • Sean Alfano

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