End of an era as last drive-in closes

Ster-Kinekor has confirmed that the Velskoen drive-in in Randburg, Johannesburg will close next year. It is the last of its drive-ins and the company says the decision comes as a result of declining audiences, which is says isn’t unique to SA.

“Cinema audiences aren’t declining”, says Ster-Kinekor spokesman Lynne Wylie. “It’s the culture of the drive-in that’s dying.”

She says this is a “worldwide phenomenon brought on by the multiplex era” and that reports of drive-in closures across the US and in other parts of the world are commonplace.

Wylie says it’s unlikely the Velskoen facility will be resurrected as the site is to be built on after Ster-Kinekor’s lease on the property expires.

The company could “potentially” build another drive-in elsewhere, but warns that with demand for drive-ins dwindling, the commercial viability of any future facilities would need to be established before it could consider this.

The Velskoen drive-in, which has been running for more than 60 years, will remain operational until some time next year.

The facility, which has deteriorated in recent years due to a lack of maintenance, looks likely to be replaced with more of the townhouses that already surround it.

Though the growth of home entertainment systems and increased consumer access to high-speed broadband affected cinema ticket sales in recent years, Wylie suggests that with the introduction of new technology, such as digital and 3D projectors, Ster-Kinekor has seen attendance levels at cinemas normalise.

Wylie says the closure of Velskoen is “saddening” and marks the end of “the era of drive-in” for the company.  — Craig Wilson, TechCentral

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