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Another VENDOR starting the movie too early! They need a brighter projector.

The answer to this question is “it depends” on many factors. I am writing this blog to help my customers execute the best event possible and knowing when the actual movie starts is very helpful in the overall planning of the event.

Growing up in the sixties the Drive-in Theater was one of my favorite family outings. As a small child I knew the movie started when it was dark enough so I typically headed to the concession stand and bought my pizza which tasted lousy compared to today’s offerings. What I find interesting today at all of the events that I set up is that most people under 40 have little idea about when we can start the feature.

Why should they if they had never been to a Drive-in which faded away to near extinction in the seventies. No one lost the love of seeing a movie outdoors it just became outdated with the rise of the suburban megaplex (thanks Stan Durwood, AMC Theatres) and as importantly to its’ demise the land became too valuable to be what amounted to a part time parking lot.

Why is outdoor movie event start time so important?

Pro Outdoor Movies is in its’ 13th year showing outdoor cinema in So. California. One important element often out of our control is event timing. One of the worst things an event host can do is get their guests to the event too early especially during the hot summer months as it will greatly diminish the overall outdoor movie experience. Many of our clients have pre-feature activities and food sales but quite often they post a 6pm start time on their flyer/ad and the movie may not start until after 8pm in May-July.


We suggest having your guests arrive 60-90 minutes before start time. Many factors determine start time depending upon the screen size, projector brightness, screen location, time of year, and even the type of movie you show since animation will be viewable 10-15 minutes before live action. The best example of this is “E.T” and “Star Wars.” The 25-minute opening of “E.T” is at night and very dark. If shown in June by example even with a super bright projector on smaller screen the image will not be adequate until after 8:30pm and that movie is 2 hours in length pushing the conclusion past 10pm.

Pro Outdoor Movies on average uses projector 2x as bright as the industry. Additionally, our screens have black backing to improve both illumination and contrast. We offer a free advance site survey and screen positioning relative to the direction of the sunset is key. To find the actual sunset time in your area visit Lastly, it is best to advertise that the movie begins at dusk with pre-feature food and activities before.