Drive-In Movies Return to Orange County, Calif., on Inflatable Screen

Drive-in movies are returning to Orange County, Calif., courtesy of an inflatable silver screen.

And the owners of the Star-Vu hope the new style of outdoor cinema will catch on.

After a 10-year hiatus, a 300-car theater will flicker to life and show "Shrek the Third" in a parking lot at the Orange County Fairgrounds Friday night, reports The Los Angeles Times. The Star-Vu Drive-In plans to operate year-round, except during fair season.

The last such venue closed in 1997 to make room for a Wal-Mart.

Click here to read The Los Angeles Times story

The Star-Vu's owners hope to franchise the concept of the inflatable screen to other cities, reports the Times. The screen is a 2,000-pound piece of Italian plastic, inflated with British fans and cloaked with a French movie screen.

"This is great," Patrick Muñoz, who attended a sneak preview with his family Thursday night, told the newspaper. The last time he attended a drive-in was 25 years ago but he said he was more interested in his date. "I'm pretty sure I don't remember what the movie was," he added.

The drive-in industry was born 75 years ago in New Jersey when inventor Richard Hollingshead Jr. tied a sheet between two trees and plopped a 1928 Kodak projector on the hood of his car. By 1958, at the industry's peak, the number of cinemas topped 4,000 nationwide. But by 1977, the number of drive-in theaters had dipped below 3,000, partly because Congress established national daylight-saving time in 1966, forcing outdoor cinemas to start films an hour later.

Today, drive-ins are an endangered species, numbering about 400.