Movie theaters have been facing a crisis since the pandemic began, with many films being released on in-home digital platforms. But David Kinley keeps up his drive-in theater to offer that unique big-screen experience you can’t get with a streaming platform.
He shares, “I love it because of the tradition. You know, the joy that it brings families and other people is quite rewarding. And of course, with the outdoor theater, you can see the movie underneath the stars, where you can escape from reality.”
Meet David Kinney: drive-in owner
(a car pulls up to a drive through window)
Cashier: Hi, welcome to Tri-Way. What are you watching today?
(David walks into a room with video equipment)
David Kinney: Yeah it’s kind of sad that right now, like HBO Max, Disney+, and a few others are releasing at the same time that it’s being released in the theaters.
You know, there’s hard times, you know, you just push through it.
And we all know that seeing a movie in the theater is a totally different experience, and being around other people and how they react —
(Kids play and friends gather and laugh before a movie starts)
Man: It’s just good to see people out.
Woman: It’s good to be like out in the fresh air.
Man: It’s outside and like —
Woman: It’s the Midwest. It’s something to do.
(Young girls throw blankets and pillows into the bed of a truck)
Girl: Yeah, we tried this once before we came.
Girl 2: You want this one?
Girl: Well, basically they’re all couch pillows off of his couch, and then we just put like a little, like another like thing that you could use.
Interviewer: How many theaters are left?
David: Drive-ins? Well, since the digital conversion happened, there’s only about 200 of them left.
(David gives a tour of the drive-in facility)
Screen number one up here is our biggest screen. It’s a 40-foot by 80-foot screen. We actually named the screens after former drive-ins.
So, that’s the Western Drive-in screen up there. Back here is screen number two. It’s named after the Starlight Drive-in Theater. This utility pole and a couple of those fixtures up on the utility pole came from the old Starlight Drive-in. And some of the speaker poles, those are from the Starlight Drive-in as well.
Screen number four named after the Midway Drive-in. And Dunlap, so after the twister had already hit, there was one panel missing off of this screen, because back then they used to make screens out of wafer board or something like that. And you always had to reattach them.
(Timelapse of Godzilla vs. Kong as the sun sets)
One of my all-time favorites was the original Batman that had Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson. Say for instance, Twister, you know, that’s a classic drive-in movie.
I can tell you about the travesty I had with Face/Off. The theater that had it before me, when they put the reels back into the can, they didn’t label them properly.
The original Speed — we had people that came back and had seen it two, three, four times. I mean people were coming out, and I’ll tell you how cold it was. I mean you could see their breath, but yet they want to come out and watch Fast and Furious at the drive-in.
I love it because of the tradition. You know, the joy that it brings families and other people is quite rewarding. And of course, with the outdoor theater, you can see the movie underneath the stars where you can escape from reality. And so it’s a very warm, fuzzy feeling.
So as long as we can keep it going, that’s the most important thing, so —
(An old cartoon soft drink commercial plays on the screen)