by Paul M. Carhart
As we zoom through our on-the-go lives, it’s nice to occasionally stop and smell the roses, catch a concert or play, or even check out a movie or two. We on-the-go humans need some down time!
Used to be you could catch two movies at a drive-in and watch them in the comfort of your car, your arm securely around your significant other, kids in the back seat chomping on popcorn brought from home. While common knowledge seems to avow the extinction of the drive-in movie, I’m here to testify. Although it differs somewhat nowadays from its portrayal in Grease, the drive-in movie theater is not dead.
First of all, if your car doesn’t have an FM radio, don’t visit today’s drive-in theater unless you bring along your ghetto blaster. That’s right! No more tin cans dangling from your window. Nowadays, the movie soundtrack is delivered in vibrant stereo directly to your receiver of choice. The better the car stereo, the better your listening experience. This also opens up some interesting viewing options. Now, if you bring the appropriate stereo, a camping chair and enough batteries, you can watch your movie out under the stars if you prefer the open air to the confines of your automobile. I’ve seen kids sitting on top of truck cabs, whole families perched around the front of their SUV in camping chairs as well as the expected romantic dalliances veiled behind steamed-up windows.
The days of paying by the carload are gone. But in most drive-ins, kids under twelve are still free and your ticket price, which is usually about the cost of an indoor movie ticket, is most often for both films. On weekends, the theater will often repeat the first film so you can watch it again for the same price. Be aware, however, that there are a few drive-ins out there that are now ticketing each film separately. Not that it’s a rip-off per se, but you should know what you’re getting in to.
For the most part, patrons of modern drive-ins are family folk, hoping for an enjoyable night at the movies. However, the drive-ins I’ve been to in recent years are, admittedly, just a tad seedy. Stray from your vehicle at your own risk. Because it’s possible to bring in whatever “beverages” you want from the outside, it is common to smell alcohol and pot as you pass by various open windows. Some drive-ins prohibit drinking on the premises and employ roaming security guards to enforce their stance.
Snack Bar and Bathroom Advice
If you insist on paying through the nose for the nasty fare served at the snack bar, get in line well before the movies start. Every drive-in I’ve gone to in recent days has had a ridiculously long snack bar line. We always bring a cooler full of drinks, pre-popped popcorn and a few of our own candy bars and/or chips when we go. The bathrooms aren’t much better. Use them early or they are not going to be suitable for use at all. I don’t think anyone cleans them over the course of the night. Still, they’re probably not much worse than the restroom at your local Wal-Mart.
If you can get over some of the downsides of the modern drive-in theater, you’ll enjoy sinking into your seat cushion, cranking up the stereo and catching a couple movies with your spouse and kids. We always look forward to it.
Keep in mind, the above was true when I lived in Colorado and it’s true in Southern California… two very different urban landscapes. I can only assume, no matter what state you’re in, if you scour the Internet hard enough, you’ll come across your own hidden drive-in theater. You may have to drive an hour each way, but I bet you’ll find one.
Then only you can decide if it’s worth it to give it a try.
Bonus: If you live in Southern California, check out the drive-in we often frequent: The Vineland Drive-In.
Paul Carhart’s book, Zooming Thru Life: Creative Tips To Bring Sanity To Your On-The-Go Lifestyle, will be available from your favorite online bookseller, August 2009. Stay up to date: paulcarhart.com.