Drive in movie projectors

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i went to the drive in the other day, and of corse had to stare and notice, how do they get such a decent image, at literally hundreds of feet away with noisy light disturbing the movie?

what kind of bulb do those things run?

Also, theres an abandoned drive iin about 10 minutes from my Gfs house. Been there since 1995. a few friends have visited it..said inside the projection booth, EVERYTHING is still in old fridge, projectors, films..etc..

SO i was figuring id go take a look and salvage some parts.

Any input guys? thanks in advance.
Mad who owns the place? you should contact them first to see about going into the place because for all you know they may be planning to reopen it Sometime in the future( and thus dont want anyone in it taking stuff out etc). There was a Drive in around me that was closed for 10 years and then out of nowhere reopened and hasnt closed since and is Packed 24/7...........Whatever you decide take pictures of the place Its neet to see old theaters etc and what still left behind. :D
well, i know its condemned, and theres trees growing all through it. only been 10 years, but you cant even find the place. the screens are torn down. the only things that stand is the booth and the consession stand...but i beleive that fell down, and the speaker trees have all been removed.

Theres alot of neat places here in ohio. most are scheduled to be nocked down, but they dont get to it til YEARS later.

However i will ask around to see whats gong on with the place.
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I would be surprised if any current cinema projectors use crts, most I have seen lately are dlp or lcd and use very large xenon lamps. I don't think any crt would be bright enough.

Older projectors used carbon arc lamps with auto feeders to keep the rods at the optimum distance, used a sort of current sensing solenoid to maintain the arc current reasonably constant. Firing them up is kinda scary.. The rods have to touch usually with a very loud pop and some nasty sizzling noises as the rods separate. I was a projectionist in high school and we had several smaller incandescent bulb type projectors and a couple xenon arc types as well. Hung out at a small theater with the described 35mm projectors. (No longer remember who made them, but not Bell& Howell LOL Maybe CEC.)

Note that cinema grade projectors are hazardous in operation. Fires even with safety film, not acetate are common. They also require a lot of power, like several KW just for the lamp.

Technically speaking removing that equipment from that drive in is theft if you do not have the permission of the owner. Given the possible value of the equipment it might even be considered grand larceny in your jurisdiction. Not very ethical and not recommended!

Many of the old projectors were "Simplex" or "Super Simplex".
Many of the optical soundtrack readers were RCA Photophone.

I worked in a theatre when I was in high school. Those arc lamps were VERY bright. Any impurity in the carbon rods would make the auto rod feeder pretty much useless. The projectionist had to keep an eye on the lamphouse current and then manually adjust the rods to maximize the brightness of the arc.
You can make a DIY carbon arc lamp, all you need is an arc welder and some carbon rods out of some old torch batteries. Just make sure that you do this in a well-ventilated area because of the ozone and other nasties that are created and wear an arc shield for your eyes.


(edit) and sun screen.
You there, KitaruSapien, Have I not seen you on the LL forums trying to use ridiculously high wattage bulbs?

If so, I think I should point out that your previous attempts were possible, but this is not. Arc lamps take a ridiculous amount of current and make a ridiculous amount of light, far too much for a normal LCD to handle.

But try it anyway, and post results! :p
Video Freak said:
Relder........ahhhhh so correct....How bought I say 6/7 instead of 24/7 LOL though if you count the swap meets they have in the daytime sometimes the number raises :D
Are you by any chance talking about the Shelton, WA drive-ins? Your posts remind me of that place. Then again most drive ins have closed and re-opened and run swap meets during the day.
Maybe I'm out of touch, but I thought movie theatres still used film. Are they using CRT or DLP projection now?

I may not know a lot, but this I do know: You do not want to even be in there without permission. That by itself can get you charged with several kinds of felonies. If you are inside without permission it is assumed that you came there to steal. Even though the charges would likely be reduced to something more rational, it would be a huge hassle and you don't want to 'go there'. I know from experience, (don't drink and explore, drinking and exploring don't mix).
justme said:
I know from experience, (don't drink and explore, drinking and exploring don't mix).

Drinking and exploring don't mix, so do your drinking early and get it out of the way, and then go exploring.:)

That's a George Carlin quote. I just changed driving to exploring.
Original quote: Drinking and driving simply do not mix, so do your drinking early and get it out of the way, and then go driving.
Hi everyone,
Just happened across this forum during a Google search.

Theatres (drive in or indoor) do not use CRT projectors.
I'll qualify that by saying that I haven't researched what was used in the old days for closed circuit projection.
I'd guess that projection is still 99% film based, mostly 35mm, but a few 70mm.

Digital (DLP) projection is slowly coming on. One auditorium of a new multiplex cinema in Grand Rapids, MI. has digital projection.
I'm doubtful if these are bright enough for Drive-In use yet.

Going back to the drive in that the author of the original post mentioned. Where is it located? Have you looked for information on the location on a site such as or

IF you can get permission to go in there, it would be a treasure chest of goodies. Heck, maybe the owner (if you could find them) would give the stuff away.
That's where one of the websites I mentioned would be a good starting point.

If anyone has questions on theatre projection, ask away.
I worked for 8 years at a small town theatre, the good old fashioned kind with carbon arc lamps, changeovers between reels, and the type of presentation you just don't get from an automated place these days.
MadSkillzMan said:
lol setting up an arch welder to project an image LOL..i dont think itd even stay on that long the transformer would shut it off

For the present the Thomas Edison National Museum in West Orange NJ is closed for renovation -- I don't know what it will look like when it reopens but they have the "Black Mariah" in which his early films were made -- and some of the early projection equipment -- indeed carbon arc was used for projection. The projectionist probably went blind from continually adjusting the electrodes.

I have very fond memories of drive-in movies -- saw Stanley Kubrick's "2001" in the same drive in with the same girl about 7 or 8 times -- my memories are mostly of steamed up windows and convoluted yoga positions in the back seat of some 1960's Plymouth.
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