Buda couple opens retro drive-in theatre

Over the course of two days, Buda residents Chris and Sarah Denny watched as sell-out crowd after sell-out crowd eagerly soaked in a double feature of classic Hollywood blockbusters.

As the films rolled on, those in attendance happily took in classic concession fare, all of it consumed from the comfort of their own car.

That was the experience many had this weekend when the Denny couple opened Doc’s Drive-in Theatre, a retro drive-in located east of Interstate 35 just outside of Buda.

The couple opened Doc’s Drive-in Theatre this weekend to a sold-out crowd while offering classic Halloween double features, a bar and gourmet versions of classic movie concessions.

The theater plays double features on each of its two screens about three times weekly. Visitors can purchase a parking spot and tickets ahead of the show to reserve their spot and ensure admittance.

Before each movie starts, movie-goers are treated to a reel of old-fashion commercials rather than current previews spotted at a regular indoor theatre.

Doc’s opened with a sold-out show the first night and plenty of walk-ins that they were able to accommodate between the two screens.

The entire venue is made from shipping containers. The bar offers second-floor seating with a view to both screens.

Doc’s Drive-in Theatre shows “The Goonies” Oct. 13 during opening weekend while viewers back in their vehicles to watch.

Unlike traditional drive-ins, the speakers come from the screen rather than individual pieces for each vehicle. Projectors shoot the film onto screens made from three storage containers stacked vertically with a special screen paint spread across a large metal panel.

The Dennys, who operate the venue, named it after their neighbor and good friend, whom they call Doc, an 88-year-old Buda man they enjoy coffee with regularly. The couple said they want the theater to be as neighborhood friendly as possible, so they have pledged to donate a portion of their profits to a local cause.

Profits from the theater come entirely from concessions; five percent of that money will go toward Buda neighbor Hagan Hill, who was diagnosed with Autoimmune Hepatitis and Sclerosing Cholangitis. The owners will continue to donate part of their profits as long as Hill is in need.

“We looked at a lot of different options for running a business,” Sarah Denny said. “I love movies and I wanted somewhere that also felt like it was a community so Chris and I bought this land and looked at all of our options.”

Before beginning construction in 2016, the Dennys’ land was full of cattle. The couple then began building tiny houses and digging up dirt for an underground speak-easy they hope to open in the years to come that will be located next to the drive-in.

During the drive-in’s off-days, the Dennys said they’ll open up the space for events such as a local farmers market.

“I’m confident in the project and the different things we’ll be able to do,” Chris Denny said. “We really researched all of our options and studied the successes and failures of other drive-in theaters. There have been some issues with technology and communication, but I feel confident that after the first day we’ve really gotten it.”

Lisa Graziano, Sarah Denny’s mother, attended the opening weekend. Graziano said she was skeptical about whether a drive-in could be successful.

“After I saw it put together I felt better,” Graziano said. “It’s well-decorated and Sarah picks the best movies. I see everyone enjoying it, and I know they’ll do great.”

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