June 6, 2011

Let's all pile in the car and go to the drive-in theater


Day 157 of Vintage 365


Though in recent years they have become, in far too many cities and towns, mere memories, their physical presence often demolished entirely, once - not so very long ago - drive-in movie theaters were a common site across much of the North American landscape.

In fact, during my 1980s/90s childhood, there was a drive-in located less than an hour away from our house, which, when the weather turned warm enough my family would make a point of going to visit at least a couple of times most summers.

There was something almost otherworldly cool about the experience, as viewed through the eyes of a young child (who was already obsessed with all things vintage), of piling into the minivan with blankets, pillows, snacks, stuffed animals, juice boxes, bug spray, and other sundry household items nestled amongst the the seats, myself and my siblings.

I remember feeling a wave of excitement flutter through my stomach as we needed the entrance, the sky slipping rapidly from late summer to glistening dusk, knowing that in a matter of minutes we'd be able to pass through the gate, pull up to a parking slot, hook up the sound to our van, and settle in for what was usually a double bill of very family friendly films.

First of course, there would be the customary "get out and stretch your legs" run around the long, crisp grass, other children merrily doing the same thing as their parents cracked open cooler chest chilled beverages and sun roofs, if they had them.

As dusk tumbled into the fountain pen ink hued sky of night and the pre-movie ads encouraging movie-goers to head on over to the concession stand began to roll, we'd come running back to settle into the car, hurriedly arranging pillows, opening snacks (often red licorice and popcorn or potato chips), and getting ready for the main attraction to begin flashing across that seemingly giant canvass.

This act of going to the drive-in movie theater was, by all accounts a simple one, and yet I cherish the memories of the hot summer nights spent in the flickering glow of the movies I saw there so very much. I'm grateful to my parents for taking my brother, sister and I to the the drive-in, keeping alive a tradition they'd done with their own respective parents as youngsters.

Though drive-in theaters are becoming rarer with each passing year, during their golden heyday (the 1940s - 1970s, with a particular spike in popularity during the 50s), they were a fantastic part of the cultural and literal landscape.

{A black and white photo of an unidentified drive-in theater taken during the 1950s, the decade which was perhaps the zenith for this delightful form of outdoor movie watching. I'm curious, does anyone recognize the movie that's playing on the screen? Image via Railroad Jack on Flickr.}


The first drive-in theater ever opened up on June 6, 1933, exactly 78 years ago today. In the time since then this entertaining form of outdoor movie viewing has risen and fallen, but - at least as of this moment - has not completely gone the way of the dinosaur yet.

I hope very much that it never will, for I would greatly enjoy carrying on one day with my own future children the tradition of loading up the car and heading down to the drive-in theater for a night of smiles, yummy treats, and delightfully family movies.

Do you have your own treasured memories of evenings spent at the drive-in? Does your town still count itself amongst the lucky few with one of these fabulous outdoor theaters? And, as my vintage loving heart secretly hopes, do you think there's any chance they'll ever make a real comeback again?



If you're looking to find a drive-in that's close to where you live, be sure to check out the site Driveinmovie.com, which keeps lists of those theaters that (happily!) still exist in Canada, America and even Australia.

1 comment:

  1. Oh how I love a drive in movie! There are some still operating here in Kentucky and not far from me a monolith of a concrete screen of the old fashioned kind that I love to drive by and admire the way people visit the ruins of an ancient civilization. Thanks for the memories.