GRANBURY, Texas (AP) - The sign in front of the historic Brazos Drive-In says “closed.”
But the owner, Jennifer Miller, insists it isn’t for good.
This spring, Miller plans to reopen and show movies as long as she can get them on 35 mm film, although it’s not clear how long film prints will remain available.
Many theater owners expect them to disappear this year as Hollywood shifts entirely to digital releases. Paramount Pictures just became the first studio to stop releasing movies on film in the United States, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“I’m hoping I can squeeze another year out of it,” Miller told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (http://bit.ly/1bl3mRg).
Like many other mom and pop drive-ins nationwide, the Brazos is at a crossroads.
Rather than pay up to $100,000 to convert her projection system from film to digital, Miller is putting the Brazos up for sale for $575,000. She hopes to find a buyer who will keep it as a drive-in and perhaps find more uses for the 5-acre property.
“I’ve been the caretaker for the last 28 years,” Miller said. “I’ve kept it going, but I’m tired. I’m wanting to retire. It’s just time for me to move on.”
In Granbury, where historic preservation has helped turn the courthouse square and many of its older homes into tourist attractions, preservationists see the Brazos Drive-In as one of the city’s main draws.
The Brazos is one of the city’s historic landmarks, so it must have the approval of Granbury’s Historic Commission to make improvements to the exterior, including its 70-foot screen tower.
“This is a significant site - no doubt,” said Mary Saltarelli, consulting executive director of Preserve Granbury. “It’s a reminder of ‘50s drive-in culture that was so prevalent after the war. People had time. They had money. Most people could buy cars.
“But they were also in a hurry, so there were drive-in motels, drive-in restaurants and drive-in movie theaters - all of those boomed up.”
The Brazos looks largely the same as when it opened in 1952. It still has a vintage concession stand and a patio with old metal chairs where people can watch the movie if they don’t want to sit in their cars or pickups.
One change is that moviegoers listen through their radios rather than old speakers that were attached to car windows - and were notorious for their less-than-ideal sound.
Both Miller and Saltarelli said drive-ins don’t have to be used just for movies. They pointed to the temporary ice-skating rink that Fort Worth’s Coyote Drive-In installed during the holidays and to San Antonio’s Mission Drive-In, which was converted to a city park with a walk-in theater where movies, concerts and other events can be held on a 1,700-square-foot stage.