For me, the drive-in was a part of growing up. And no, I didn’t grow up in the 50s. I’m lucky enough to live 15 minutes away from one of the 300-ish drive-ins left in the United States. That number may be a bit larger now due to the coronavirus pandemic. Due to indoor theaters being unable to operate at present, drive-ins have been experiencing a surge in attendance. It’s hard to say if this will last but it’s exciting that people can still seek out entertainment during these times, especially in a setting that they may have never experienced before. And for those that haven’t, here’s what you can expect.
The concept of the drive-in is likely thought by most as a way of entertainment for past generations, but if you’ve grown up near one, you know that’s not the case. The drive-in certainly doesn’t replace the regular movie theater here, but it’s a sign of summer, and it’s exciting to see people embracing that due to the current circumstances. Watching a movie in the comfort of your own vehicle is still appealing, and people are starting to catch on.
I don’t remember exactly when I went to the drive-in for the first time but my summers from middle to high school revolved around it. Someone’s parent would drive a carload of us there but not before stopping at a Wal-Mart to stock up on candy and snacks. Once we arrived we’d set up camp, either in folding chairs or blankets and pillows in the trunk of the car. When we were younger, we’d then take the half hour or so before the movies started rolling to go play on a swing set in a clearing in the woods beyond one of the screens. Once I was a little older, we’d take to the food court to get fries.
When the movies started playing, I’ll be honest, I usually didn’t pay that much attention. The drive-in was always more about the experience than the movie for me. In fact, most of the movies I’ve seen at a drive-in I had already seen in a standard theater. That didn’t matter though, I just enjoyed the company of my friends and our commentary.
I haven’t been to my local drive-in in a few years but it’s exciting to think others could discover just how fun it is for the first time. Whether it is through a pop-up temporary lot, or reopening the site of drive-ins of the past, those young and old can enjoy the charm of a big screen, clear summer nights, and snacks on standby.
You may be wondering what movies the theaters are showing, given the fact that many major releases have been pushed back to the fall and winter months. In my case, my local drive-in has been playing some older classics. There are three screens, each running a movie a night, with titles like Harry Potter, The Goonies, and Jurassic Park. The movies change each week so guests can go regularly as a way to stay entertained.
For any film lovers out there, if you have the opportunity to check out a drive-in, I can’t recommend it enough. Whether it’s to enjoy an old favorite or discover one for the first time, it’s not only a great way to get out of the house but a fun experience regardless. Take your friends, take you family, go by yourself, and experience a past form of entertainment brought back to life.
Cover Photo Courtesy of Rachel Gierlach