Martin Murray wanted to build something straight out of the 1950s.
So he cleared 30 acres of rural pasture off Interstate 45 about 20 miles south of Dallas and built his Galaxy Drive-In like a museum to a mostly extinct industry. Cars squeeze between poles tethered with speaker boxes and campy, vintage commercials rescued from Hitchcock-era reels roll before the main feature.
"I wanted to take people back to a simpler time," Murray said. "You hit 1958 once you enter our driveway."
Probably a lot of traffic, too. Texas drive-ins are seeing the biggest surge in decades, as Galaxy is among at least five outdoor theaters to open since 2003. The latest debuted in Killeen, near the Fort Hood military post, on July 1, and a new two-screen in the West Texas town of Midland is expected to open in August.
Several more are planned. Steve Rodman, owner of the Crossroads Drive-In in Shiner, between Houston and San Antonio, hopes to open a Houston theater with a more contemporary design by February.
And business has been so good at the three-screen Galaxy that co-owner Marsha Murray, Martin's wife, points to a flat tract where the gravel and sod have already been groomed for a fourth screen. She hints that Galaxy may ultimately house as many as 12 screens. She also wants to franchise more drive-ins around the state.
"You'd probably have to go back to the 1960s to see them building this many in a couple year's time," said Gene Palmer, who has owned the Last Drive-In Picture Show in Gatesville for 50 years.
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Drive-ins were a very big part of my childhood and adolescence. It saddened me to see them go. Now they're coming back and that, as a famous jailbird would say, is a "good thing."
For everything relating to drive-ins check out drive-ins.com.
Picture by Troy Paiva.