Preservation Photos #134

St. Albans Drive-in Movie Theater.

It’s drive-in movie season, and the perfect time to get out and explore roadside America off the interstates. See more of the St. Albans Drive-in in this post (playground included).

*Note: no special effects were added to this image. Vermont was simply that beautiful that day. 

p.s. Preservation Pop Quiz brick answer coming up soon. Anyone else have thoughts on it?

Live! from a drive-in movie theater

It’s a warm summer night in southern North Carolina, the stars are out, the sky is clear, I’m happily perched in a camp chair sitting next to friends, and I’m watching one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.  (If you need to know, the movie is Tropic Thunder.)   However, I can overlook the factor of an awful movie because we are at a drive-in movie theater. 

For anyone who is not aware (or couldn’t have guessed): I just love drive-in movie theaters.   I have an independent study research paper from college to prove that statement.  Drive-ins have had their ups and downs throughout American history, but they remain a unique summer excursion for the few Americans who are lucky enough to live close to one.  The drive-in movie theater first began in Camden, New Jersey and then spread throughout the country.  We know their heydays to be in the 1950s and 1960s before their popularity faded in the 1970s. 

There are many contributing factors to the decline of the drive-in movie theater ranging from the value of real estate in suburbia, the rise of indoor movie theaters and television sets, the quality of movies released in the drive-in, and general interests of the population, among many other factors.  Once numbering in the thousands, only a few hundred remain in operation in the United States.  Fortunately, they have once again become family friendly.  It is still an affordable outing for a family.  For four adults to see two movies, it costs a total of $20, whereas in the movie theater it would have cost us $80.  Drive-ins allow you to bring any food you’d like, kids can run around before the shows (or play on the playground), opening a bag of pretzels won’t disturb the neighbors, you can still talk to the people you’re with, and you can control the volume through your radio.

Maybe you’re wondering why I have my laptop at a drive-in?  Well, on the website www.badinroaddrivein.com they advertised Wi-Fi.  I thought it would be fun to write a post while at the drive-in.  Offering Wi-Fi reminds me of the services that the best and biggest drive-ins offered in their heydays.  Services ranged from baby bottle warmers next to the car (since children usually fell asleep in the back seat), grocery shopping while people watched the movie, laundry services, bellhops to bring your snacks, and carnival rides or beauty pageants for children before the show.  The drive-in movie theater simply tried to keep up with the times and fulfill their claim that it was an easy evening out for the family.  Mothers and wives didn’t have to get dressed up to go out or cook dinner for the family, they didn’t have to find a babysitter, and it was a group activity for the family. 

Now, the drive-in still caters to families, but seems to be marketing to the generation of young adults living on their own: people like me who find Wi-Fi always thrilling.  Unfortunately, I cannot get the Wi-Fi to work, which takes away from my excitement; but, maybe I’m just sitting in the wrong spot. 

While drive-ins will probably never reach their heyday of the 1960s, hopefully they will continue to attract people who like movies on the big screen and can appreciate the history of the drive-in while accepting it as a piece of modern times.  For the record, I have seen some of my favorite movies at a drive-in theater, including Cars, which is probably the best movie to see at a drive-in (except for maybe Grease.)  To find a drive-in theater near you, check out http://www.drive-ins.com/ or www.driveinmovie.com or www.driveintheater.com.   Enjoy the show!