- The Washington Times - Monday, August 1, 2005

GARRETT, Texas (AP) — Martin Murray wanted to build something straight out of the 1950s.

So he cleared 30 acres of rural pasture off Interstate 45 about 20 miles south of Dallas and built his Galaxy Drive-In like a museum to a mostly extinct industry. Cars squeeze between poles tethered with speaker boxes, and campy, vintage commercials rescued from Hitchcock-era reels roll before the main feature.

“I wanted to take people back to a simpler time,” Mr. Murray said. “You hit 1958 once you enter our driveway.”

Probably a lot of traffic, too.

Texas drive-ins are seeing the biggest surge in decades — Galaxy is among at least four outdoor theaters to open since 2003. The latest debuted in Killeen, near the Fort Hood military post, on July 1, and a new two-screen in the West Texas town of Midland is expected to open this month.

Several more are planned. Steve Rodman, owner of the Crossroads Drive-In in Shiner, between Houston and San Antonio, hopes to open a Houston theater with a more contemporary design by February.

And business has been so good at the three-screen Galaxy that co-owner Marsha Murray, Mr. Martin’s wife, points to a flat tract where the gravel and sod have already been groomed for a fourth screen. She hints that Galaxy might ultimately house as many as 12 screens. She also wants to franchise more drive-ins across the state.

“You’d probably have to go back to the 1960s to see them building this many in a couple years’ time,” said Gene Palmer, who has owned the Last Drive-In Picture Show in Gatesville for 50 years.

Mr. Palmer would know. The single-screen theater about 40 miles west of Waco opened in 1950, when watching films on a big screen under the stars was the choice for moviegoers. Texas’ drive-ins peaked at 388 in 1955; the state now has 18.

According to Drive-Ins.com, there were as many as 4,063 drive-ins across the nation in 1958. Only about 420 drive-ins remain nationwide, but of those about 40 have been built since 1990. In Texas, at least seven have either opened, reopened or added screens in the past two years.

The concept of drive-ins may be retro, but the films aren’t. Galaxy changes its kitschy, giant roadside marquee — complete with scrolling lights and intentionally crooked lettering — every two weeks to promote its latest batch of new releases.

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