Cars We Remember column: Classic car values and the drive-in movie revival
Q: Greg, I’m wondering how the collector car values are holding up during this COVID-19 pandemic? Also, I’ve seen a few articles about drive-in movies making a big comeback. Can you comment? I enjoy your articles on Seacoast Online.
- Clare E., Portsmouth, New Hampshire
A: Clare, I’m somewhat surprised by how well the collector car market has performed under the economic conditions we are experiencing. Especially impressive is how collector cars, wagons and trucks are distancing themselves from following the gyrating stock market as for pricing trends. In the past, when stock market prices tumbled so did the prices of collector cars.
Specifically, since this past February, the Dow Jones Industrials stock market has gone down a total of 8,000 points to 18,213 and has since rebounded to 25,827 of its 29,000-plus, 52-week high as of July 2.
Then again, we could have a big market crash if our recent re-opening of businesses has to be shuttered again with another COVID-19 outbreak and shutdown. In my opinion, even though COVID may spread a second time, the actual death rate remains very low.
During this troubling time of stock market ups and downs, the collector car market has not only shown price stability, many vehicles have gone up in value, especially pickup trucks, station wagons and 1960 to early 1970 muscle cars.
This means that both collectors who buy a vehicle for investment purposes and those who buy for “love of the hobby” are gladly paying more for vehicles. Be it a pristine $500,000 ’67 Corvette L88 or a ’69 Mustang Shelby GT 500 for $275,000 all the way down to a hobby level, decent but not perfect condition $4,500 1974 AMC Hornet X, things are good at the major auctions.
So, to sum up the strength of the collector car hobby, I’m impressed because it hasn’t experienced a big drop at any point since January. Further, there seems to be a lot of interest from both professional car investors to people like me, who own a “Hobby entry level” 1980 AMC Concord DL that has appreciated about $1,350 to $3,350 since I bought it for $2,000 delivered five years ago.
Now, on to the drive-in movies where just last week Walmart announced it will use parts of 160 of their store parking lots for drive-in movie showings starting soon.
And, thanks to Volkswagen public relations, I received a timely press release that dealt with the renaissance of drive-in movies, which is one of the few COVID-19 businesses showing upward trends as most indoor movie chains remain closed.
Volkswagen interviewed Jim Kopp, owner of The Family Drive-In Theater in Stephens City, Virginia, which has been in business since 1956. Of note is the very first drive-in movie establishment that opened in Camden, New Jersey, in 1933.
“We’ve seen a resurgence in interest across the country. Our shows are selling out every night. It’s the best market I have ever seen in all my years in business,” says Kopp.
Though there aren’t many left in the U.S. - about 330 still exist compared to over 5,400 multiplexes - they’ve been bright spots of entertainment, comfort and nostalgia at this difficult time.
“We’ve heard from a lot of folks that they didn’t even realize drive-in theaters still existed (before the pandemic),” Kopp said.
Volkswagen noted that The Family Drive-In Theatre reopened with an abundance of caution to help protect their patrons. Kopp’s moviegoers must wear face masks outside and maintain a proper social distance from fellow guests and their cars.
“Folks want to come, have fun and feel safe in their automobiles all while maintaining proper social distancing,” says Kopp. “Our lifestyle has been so disrupted (by the pandemic) and our theaters provide a chance for people to return to normalcy.”
Volkswagen asked Kopp for 10 tips on how to make your next (or first) drive-in movie experience a success:
Secure tickets in advance: Most drive-in ticket sales have moved online, so be sure to scope out the best show times online and purchase your ticket ahead of the show. “It’s automatic insurance that you’re going to get in,” says Kopp.
Arrive early: Demand is high, especially during the summer, so Kopp suggests moviegoers arrive at least an hour early to secure a spot near the front of the screen. If you’re looking to beat the crowds and avoid parking hassles, you may want to consider a weekday screening.
Pack toys and games: After arriving early, you’ll have some time to kill before the film starts. Be sure to pack some light entertainment, such as a book or card game, for you and the kids.
Dress comfortably: Consider wearing cozy clothes, such as shorts and leggings, and extra layers to stay warm and relaxed. Kids can always wear their pajamas to the show, which makes it convenient for parents when putting them to bed after a late screening.
Bring bug repellent: Most drive-in movie theaters are in or around wooded areas, which means bugs (in summer). Unless you enjoy swatting them all night, pack some spray.
Pack a portable radio and extra batteries: While The Family Drive-In has speakers located throughout the pavilion, the noise of fellow guests can carry over and Kopp suggests packing a small AM/FM radio to make sure you capture every bit of dialog.
Bring pillows and blankets: One of the biggest perks of drive-ins is sitting outside underneath the stars. To make the experience cozier, put down the back rows of your parked VW Atlas or Tiguan and open the trunk towards the screen.
Order from the concession stand: Drive-ins typically make most of their money from concession stands. Kopp doesn’t accept a salary and puts all the theater profits back into his business. An exception to the rule is to purchase a food permit, which typically ranges from $5-$10. It allows you to bring in food from outside while helping the drive-in owners offset the loss of revenue.
Put away your cell phone: Refrain from any cell phone use during the show (unless ordering from the concession stand). It can be disturbing to guests and distracts from the experience.
Prepare to have a good time: “Sit down, relax and enjoy the show,” Kopp says.
There you have it Clare. The collector car market is steady and growing while the drive-in movie industry is showing a major resurgence. Thanks for your letter and thanks also Volkswagen for Kopp’s excellent recommendations.
Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and Gannett Co. Inc. Contact him at email@example.com or at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, PA 18840.