Drive-in era ends

By David Kavanagh | posted on March 30, 2019

ALBANY’S will close at the end of April, with its owner saying costs and a lack of interest are the reasons he didn’t extend its lease.

Businessman Tom Kennedy, who also owns the adjacent Albany Ten Pin Bowling, said the drive-in on Stead Road has a long history, first opening on the day after Christmas in 1964.

Mr Kennedy took the helm in late 2012 and hosted a premiere event in early 2013.

While he has always been a passionate cinephile, Mr Kennedy said it took more than passion to keep a business like this running.

“You’ve got to have the people behind it that want to come see it,” he said.

“They overlook the whole cultural experience, the whole culture of the drive-in has been lost.

“Generally people over 30, they’re the ones that can remember going as a kid so they’ll take their kids.

“Young guys in their 20s, they’d rather go to the cinema, they don’t know what the drive-in is all about.”

Mr Kennedy said the high costs of organising film screenings and the rise of technologies like streaming services had rendered old-fashioned drive-ins like his unviable.

“People have seen some films 20 times at home so they don’t want to pay $30 a carload to watch it in here.”

While he has always wanted to screen Star Wars, the film franchise he remembers watching at the drive-in as a kid, licencing rules made it too expensive.

“The restrictions they place on us because we don’t have a digital projector system, we have to have that to get the latest digital films,” Mr Kennedy said.

“Any old film, Paramount, Warner, Universal, they make it difficult for us so we can’t even play Back to the Future.

“The plan is to scale down, focus on [my bowling business], don’t stress the wife out.”

Mr Kennedy hopes to host a send-off event sometime around Easter.

He is considering screening 1988 Australian drama The Man from Snowy River II, which drew large numbers of customers when it was shown previously.

“We had one event last week, the film crew from [Albany film production] Itch asked us to play one for them and I opened it up for the public to come in,” he said.

One of Mr Kennedy’s most memorable moments running the drive-in occurred at that screening, when his much beloved pet bull Brucie Brahman escaped.

“He picked on one of the costume girls,” he said.

“It was like an attack in slow motion; he was just walking slowly, pushing her and she was laughing her head off and couldn’t stop, and all the film crew were filming him.

“It was amazing.”