St. Albans Drive-in Theatre

Need something fun to do on a summer weekend night? How about a drive-in movie theater? There are so few remaining in the country so we need to support them whenever possible. Unfortunately, this isn’t exactly a blockbuster type summer for movies. I haven’t wanted to see anything. You? I wish drive-ins would have weekends of classic movies on the big screen. That would add another layer of uniqueness to drive-ins.

Surprisingly, Vermont has four operating drive-ins; they are located in Colchester, Fairlee, Bethel and St. Albans. So far, I’ve only been the Sunset Drive-in in Colchester, chronicled here. Now, I’m waiting for a good movie; however, I stopped at the St. Albans Drive-in on Route 7 in order to take some daylight pictures.

The ticket booth and entrance to the drive-in. Interestingly, this one is not fenced in any manner. The entrance road is lined with lights (seen above - blue pole).

The snack bar building and project building, set behind the rows of cars. Note that this drive-in no longer has speakers; you tune in on your radio.

The massive screen.

The marquee displays what was showing - early July 2011.

The movie screen with a playground in front - classic drive-in set up.

Honestly, drive-ins and playgrounds are two of my favorite things. And I'd bet this is the original playground.

Another shot of the playground.

One of the swings.

Check out those metal rings.

Steps on the slide. I wanted to see if this was the same manufacturer as the playground at the Sunset Drive-in. It is not, but I still love the advertising in the slide ladder.

If you come across a drive-in with interesting features, please share. Happy weekend! Happy drive-in visiting!

Sunset Drive-In

As part of the road trip with two of my sisters,, Sarah and Erin, Vinny and I took the girls to the drive-in! The Sunset Drive-in Movie Theater in Colchester, VT is one of my favorite drive-ins that I have visited. Granted, I love all drive-ins but this one tops the charts. The Sunset Drive-in has been operating for 60 years and today features four screens. And it is an excellent deal: $8.50 per person for a double feature. With four screens, there is likely a movie to fit your interests.

Why? Mostly because it had an awesome playground. Drive-ins often had playgrounds, mini golf courses, small trains, and other fun features to get the family to arrive early and spend more time (and subsequently snack money). We arrived just before dusk with enough time to play on the playground, get a good spot at one of the FOUR screens, tune the radio, and grab some snacks from the snack bar. Since it was a Monday in May, it wasn’t crowded at all, but I imagine (and hope) that it’s busy in the summertime.

Back to the playground. Check it out:

Screen 1 with the playground and "mini putt" area below at, just as you would expect.

When was the last time you saw see-saws anywhere? My sisters and I were so excited!

And a metal slide!! Wow. It was not, however, very slippery.

A merry-go-round, too!? One unlike we had seen anywhere else. It needed some oil or something, it got stuck, but we still enjoyed it. Thanks to Vinny for spinning us on the merry-g0-round!

Swings under the screen. Check out the links on the swing. I imagine this playground is about as old as the drive-in itself.

Wood swing seat - way better than those rubber/plastic seats in modern playgrounds.

Me on the see-saw. I told you I loved playgrounds.

Okay, we were there for more than the playground, but it was empty so we had to play on everything first. There was also a mini-putt area, but it looked closed for the night so we didn’t try to play. Instead, we went back to the car, set up the blankets and pillows and headed to the snack bar.

The snack bar: clean, quick, and friendly employees.

While I’ve been to drive-ins in Virginia, Iowa, and Vermont, it was the first drive-in experience for my sisters. Sarah may have been most excited to see Iron Man 2 but both Sarah and Erin loved the whole thing. Erin couldn’t believe that it was just like in the movie Grease. The only thing missing was the speakers rather than the radio, but the radio worked just fine here.

Sarah cannot control her excitement - she's jumping up and down before the movie starts!

If you have a chance to visit a drive-in, definitely do it! In their prime, there were about 4000 drive-ins across the country, but now only 300-400 remain. Find one near you: Drive-in List or search by zip code.

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!