The Last Stand of the Drive-In Theater: Upgrade or Perish

Tibbs Drive-In, Indianapolis

The drive-in nearest our house is the Tibbs, still standing after 46 years. For now. (Photo from our 2008 personal archives. To date I’ve seen only two of these timeless non-classics…)

In my early childhood years, I had only two options for seeing movies: squinting at them on my family’s thirteen-inch black-‘n’-white TV (and I was rarely allowed to choose what channels we watched); or seeing them writ large on the giant-sized, outdoor screen down at the drive-in theater. In a world where limited technology narrowed our choices, this competition was a no-brainer to me.

Consider the perks from my family’s perspective. The drive-in allowed us to see two movies for the price of one — sometimes three, sometimes more for those hardy souls who were dedicated enough to stay awake as they reran till dawn. As a bona fide lower-class family, bargains were vital to us.

The drive-in had a wide selection of unhealthy, affordable, terrifically fried dinner food, not just today’s overpriced, unimaginative candy and popcorn. Drive-ins are where we learned to love the tenderloin sandwich, crinkle-cut fries, and those tiny ice cream cups that come prepackaged with their own wooden, spoon-shaped dippin’ sticks. If your budget was even tighter than ours and you brought your own food from home or McDonald’s, no one cared. There were no ushers shining a flashlight in your face and inspecting your products.

The drive-in was a great excuse to get out of the house and enjoy some summertime air, weather permitting. Most drive-ins had a playground for us kids to enjoy till sundown arrived and our feature presentation rolled. In later years some of them even added arcade games at the concession stand. Rather than be confined to stiff theater seats (for which theatrical science had not yet discovered the miracle of padding), patrons could sit in their cars, lie down in the backs of trucks and station wagons, bring their own lawn chairs, lie on the roof if their parents were permissive, or even throw down a beach blanket in the next parking space if the night wasn’t too crowded.

The drive-in was our generation’s community entertainment center. Sure, the speakers were tinny, clunky, and frequently broken. (Listening to the movie on your own car radio was a ’90s innovation not yet available to us. We had to wait for auto scientists to invent a car battery that wouldn’t die if you left your ignition turned on for two to four hours.) The picture was terrible if the first film began too soon before sundown. If a large pickup truck or van parked in front of us, we had to move grudgingly to a different space. The concession stand shut down during the second film, precluding any late snacking for the night owls. If it rained, the movie would continue, but good luck keeping track of what was happening.

Those were acceptable risks. If the stars aligned and nothing went wrong, the drive-in offered our community an evening of scintillating escapism by moonlight.

Our section-8 townhouse was a few blocks away from the Westlake Drive-In. Mom had our drive-in guidelines all but nailed on our front door. While the Westlake was open for the season (roughly spring to fall) we drove in every single weekend if all of the following conditions were met:

1. If she had the money. (I was too young to be kept informed on this topic.)

2. If we had no schedule conflict. (This was very rare. Far as I could tell, my birth killed Mom’s social life dead.)

3. If the first movie wasn’t rated R. (Mom aimed to be the responsible parent.)

4. If we hadn’t already seen the first movie before. (If we wanted an encore, we waited several years for it to debut on broadcast TV. We weren’t early adopters who could afford the nascent magic of cable TV.)

These restrictions may sound harsh to some of you, but I saw a surprising number of films anyway. I’m sure I’ve forgotten dozens, though I know they included several Disney films and wacky PG comedies such as Smokey and the Bandit and Midnight Madness. I recall obscurities such as Condorman and Super Fuzz (yay super-heroes!), and at least one Roger Moore James Bond film, though I couldn’t tell you which without cheating and verifying release dates.

In my least favorite memories, these parameters sometimes meant paying for earnest, grown-up, summertime Oscar bait that was anathema to kids like me. No one that age wants or needs to sit still through the likes of the original Arthur, On Golden Pond, or Cannery Row. Heck, even Mom complained all through Cannery Row. John Steinbeck adaptations were never a proper fit at the drive-in.

Our family tradition ended when the Westlake shut down in 1982. Our last hurrah was the failed racing comedy Six-Pack starring Kenny Rogers and a crowd of foul-mouthed kids. With that our weekend movie outings ended for a time. The acreage was bulldozed and overrun with medical office buildings that remain in business and boring to this very day.

Indianapolis had plenty of other drive-ins — the Tibbs, the Clermont, the Southview, and several others on other sides of town I didn’t recognize, or in distant suburbs and small towns that would surely ruin Mom’s gas budget. I read the listings for the other drive-ins in each evening’s edition of the Indianapolis News. In hindsight I think our family stopped going to drive-ins altogether because the Westlake itself meant more to Mom than the movies did.

Years later, as an adult with a driver’s license, I checked out the other nearby drive-ins. Over time, most of those closed their doors as well. The Clermont had expanded to three screens by the time it was razed and assimilated by the nearby auto-racing park. The land where the Southview stood is now a Hardee’s and some semi-truck-related businesses or warehouses or something else too dull for me to focus on whenever I drive past. The Lafayette Road Drive-In wasn’t far from us but had shut down long before the Westlake did. I remember how their signs always advertised the coolest-sounding horror movies, R-rated forbidden fruit like The Incredible Melting Man. They were replaced with a Cub Foods grocery, which in turn went defunct years later, to be demolished and eventually replaced, with a bit of cosmic perversity, by a 14-screen multiplex.

The Tibbs still stands today, four screens strong and keeping that flag unfurled and flying high, a beloved reminder of those days of yore. The Tibbs is so hardcore retro, their official site still carries a compatibility advisory for America OnLine users.

In today’s tumultuous times, all that may soon change for the worse.

You may have seen headlines recently about how the major studios plan to save themselves millions by discontinuing the long-standing tradition of printing films on actual celluloid reels. The long-term plan is to switch to distributing new releases only in digital format. For a few studios, that plan’s a little more imminent. That’s fine and dandy for newer theaters that opened in the last several years with all-digital projectors, or for older theaters that could afford to upgrade and replace their old, reliable, increasingly obsolete equipment. Each digital projector costs upwards of $80,000, plus costs for maintenance and ongoing receipt of studio films. If you’re wondering why your popcorn now costs ten dollars an ounce and soft drinks require a loan application, that’s part of the reason why.

Very, very few of America’s remaining 360+ drive-ins operate with that kind of profit margin. Keep in mind, this predicament is in addition to their never-ending battle against the forces of Netflix, Redbox, the internet, and people who watch movies on their phones and are complete, befuddling aliens to me.

Owners are scrambling to find funding to keep their dreams and businesses alive in that order, be it via bank loans, second or third mortgages, or neighborhood fundraisers. I’ve even seen a few Kickstarter projects pleading their case to the international masses. If any or all of these methods fail, expect that 360 to dwindle into the double digits or lower over the next year or two as drive-ins die off more quickly than comic book shops. Without the new tech, they’ll no longer be able to show new films, and no one expects them to lure an equal number of viewers with the older, less vibrant, slowly degrading films that will be their only remaining content option.

A few lucky survivors have found themselves a heroic Daddy Warbucks in the folks at Honda. Through a nonprofit program of theirs called Project Drive-In, internet users who care about such matters were allowed to vote in a poll for the drive-in they’d most like to see blessed with a digital projector. The winners would see their dream and their day saved.

The first five winners were just announced, with additional heartening news: PDI has acquired enough additional funding to save four more theaters. The vote has been extended an extra week to September 21, 2013, to permit four last contenders one more chance for survival.

It goes without saying I’ve already voted for the Tibbs. Some friends and family have voted for other drive-ins out of town, as is their privilege, but this means we’re all splitting our votes between too many candidates. It doesn’t help that with twenty of them still alive and kicking, Indiana is one of the densest drive-in states per capita.

If you have a drive-in within a hundred miles of your area, now’s the time to visit Project Drive-In, locate your drive-in on their handy interactive map, and lend your support, whether by voting, donating, or just spreading the word. If you don’t have a drive-in near you, I hear there’s one called the Tibbs that’s rather keen.

Every visit to the Westlake ended with the same memory:

We never stayed all night long. We only watched the second film if it passed the guidelines posted above and if none of us were in danger of falling asleep. When the time had come to say goodbye, we pulled out of our space and joined the long line waiting to leave. While Mom stared at the cars ahead, I kept my eyes fixed on the screen nearest the exit, watching it silently for as long as I could. The closer we came to the exit, the more the screen tilted and distorted from my viewpoint, until it became nothing more than a diagonal kaleidoscope.

Even that slanted glimpse disappeared as we passed around its right edge toward Beachway Drive. Behind us the film that now faced away kept spooling regardless. In the car mirrors, all I could see was the rear of the screen as it dwindled and dissolved into the pitch black without us.

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About Randall A. Golden
A Hoosier since birth, a geek since age 6, a father since age 22, and a Christian since age 30. Full-time customer service rep; part-time Internet participant; content provider to Nightly.net since 2001; prone to Twitter-lurking as @RandallGolden . Views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of any other corporation, being, or party line.

80 Responses to The Last Stand of the Drive-In Theater: Upgrade or Perish

  1. Thanks for the happy memories your post brought back. Summertime in Syracuse, NY circa quite a while ago: My mother (also a single parent) and my older sister were Team Adults. They would dress my younger sister and me, Team Kids, in our pajamas for our night at the drive-in on Erie Blvd. First, we’d stop at Carroll’s for burgers and fries. (Back then there were still places that could compete with McDonalds.) Then it was the slow ride as our car wheels crunched over the gravel road that led to the big green and white screen. I can still smell the popcorn and hear the sound of the speaker scraping against the window glass as my mother adjusted it. Team Adults was actually interested in seeing the movie while Team Kids just wanted to eat and run around outside in our pjs. The movies were always inappropriate for Team Kids but that was ok because we never stayed awake long, what with the food, fresh air and falling night sky. Those were great times!

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    • Sounds like it. :) I always loathed the scraping of metal speaker hook against windshield edge. Not quite like fingernails on chalkboard, but close to it sometimes.

      Whenever I got bored waiting for showtime, I used to rummage through the gravel around our car and collect bottle caps. I’d toss them in the floor of Mom’s old ’79 Monza and leave ‘em there till next time she cleaned out the car. No practical reason — just because I could. That’s my childhood in a nutshell — I was always collecting something.

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  2. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. My mind went back to a subject you (perhaps wisely) didn’t explore here – drive-in dates. In the interest of your PG audience and my better discretion I’ll just keep my grin and my description to myself. :)

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    • Well played. A gentleman never kisses and tells. :D That tangent crossed my mind, but ended up an unwritten outtake. The only personal anecdote I could recall involved a Southview Drive-In showing of Problem Child 2 that all involved would just as soon forget, up to and including the actors in the movie.

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  3. rarasaur says:

    Ah, FP’d! You know what this means… next month, you’ll have to revisit your 177 stats! :) ( Congrats! :D )

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  4. dalo2013 says:

    A sad note to think the Drive-In days may be numbered…and yes, drive-in dates were perhaps the sole reason we ever went to drive-ins. I am always surprised when I see one, especially one well kept. Somehow, when it comes to people who own drive-ins, I think of the words “stranded at the drive-in, branded a fool…” but it is such a great part of Americana.

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    • It is, isn’t it? I’m not always one to hold to any and every little thing from my childhood (my nostalgia for VHS dwindles by the day), but drive-ins were the first place where movies ever became magical to me. It’s a shame future generations just won’t get it.

      In reading various articles about this, it’s been surprising to see how many drive-ins have changed ownership over the last two decades. I’m betting many simply went out of business when their owners retired, but more than a few people have stepped up, bought in, and invested their own money to keep these places going. I admire their optimism.

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      • dalo2013 says:

        I remember my first drive-in movie: Watergate. My parents took me, and since I was just a young kid, I had no interest in the movie ~ but loved the fact I was at the drive-in, didn’t want to leave.

        I too admire the optimism of people who keep them going. Again, thanks for this post!

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  5. mcbarlow5 says:

    I’ve already voted for our local Paris, Ky drive-in, the Bourbon Drive-In, at Project Drive-In, and I’m sharing your post as well. Your post brought back many childhood memories, as well as not-so-wholesome teenage memories! Congrats on being freshly pressed!

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    • Thanks very much for the kind words and the tweet. I’ve never thought to visit drive-ins in other states, but now I’m wondering if it might be interesting to see some of those other survivors out there. Here’s hoping our Midwest drive-ins put in a great showing in the competition!

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  6. Jim Grey says:

    My second movie memory is of seeing The Jungle Book at the Chippewa Drive-In in South Bend. We saw a few more movies there before it became, believe it or not, an X-rated drive in. Sheesh.

    The last movie I saw at a drive in was in 1985, in Terre Haute. Feels like a poverty all of a sudden that it’s been almost 30 years.

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    • I’m pretty sure I saw The Jungle Book at the Westlake, too. The X-rated concept is…just mind-boggling. If anyplace ’round here ever tried that, it didn’t last and was never spoken of again.

      I’m ashamed to say I can’t recall my last visit. I know I saw Independence Day at the Tibbs in 1996, and…I’m blanking on anything else since then. Rats.

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  7. formyfrog says:

    I remember drive-ins! They were all that you described. The one closest to us had a “Buck Night” where no matter how many people were in the vehicle, it was still a buck to get in. We used to bring pillows and blankets because the little kids would inevitably fall asleep to be carried inside when we got home. Those are some very good memories, like the Saturday matinees where kids lined up down the street clutching coins in sweaty hands to sit all day if they wanted to watch the same movies, shorts, and cartoons over and over again. There was something special about theaters back then with their ornate ceilings and velvet drapes covering the screen — a big screen too! Thanks for bringing it all back. I swear I can smell popcorn with real butter. Sigh…

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    • My pleasure. :) Our old indoor theaters had similar decor. I never understood indoor wall drapes, but there they were. Sadly, nearly all the theaters from my childhood are gone now, replaced by sterile multiplexes. Impressive sound/picture quality, unremarkable environment.

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  8. Reblogged this on Homie Williams. and commented:
    — J.W.

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  9. kca66 says:

    There is NOTHING like going to a drive in!! Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

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  10. the tow path says:

    I remember my parents taking us to the drive in when we were kids. One of the scariest things I remember was Cruella De Vil’s face filling that giant screen.

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    • That’s what I loved about those monolithic screens — they made scary people scarier, action scenes extra-strength, and…well, for not-so-rich families like mine, the colors alone were a treat. My mom never shelled out for one of those color TVs till I was in junior high. Watching eventual reruns of Disney films at home wasn’t the same experience in the least.

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  11. pezcita says:

    I was born in ’87, so drive-ins are way before my time. There were still one or two operational drive-ins in my area last time I checked, and I’ve always wanted to go to one. Guess I better hurry up or they might close too! Thank you for the advanced warning.

    (P.S. I bet these guys danced on the drive-in screens back in the day http://pezcita.wordpress.com/)

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  12. pezcita says:

    BTW, I read this article while waiting for a “frozen” library DVD to make up it’s mind and play, so apparently there are worse ways to watch movies than from your car. Ah, for simpler times!

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  13. I was born well after the heyday of drive-in movies, and the only time I went to one was during a family vacation on Prince Edward Island about twelve years ago, where we saw “Rush Hour 2″. We could listen to the movie sound through the car radio, so no speaker.

    On a side note, weren’t all Roger Moore James Bond movies pretty much the same?

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    • That’s been my impression. That’s why I can’t remember which one(s) I saw! As a kid I thought all his seemed alike. In fact, I’m not even sure if I saw more than one. Maybe I saw just one, and the ads for all the rest just convinced me I’d already seen them…

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  14. Great article. I too grew up going to Drive-ins. There’s one not too far from me in Southern California – you’ve motivated me to go check it out. Thanks!!
    SueBee of SueBeeandKat.com

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  15. Sarah Harris says:

    “Get in your PJ’s we’re going out!”
    I thought my parents were crazy and I was in the early stages of “But what if someone sees me?!” or worse “What if my parents embarrass me?!”
    But we all piled in the back of the Chrysler Lebaron with the back seat down, pillows and blankets strewn everywhere. Back then, we could ride in the back without seatbelts – a double bed on wheels.
    When we got there, we watched Disney’s The Ugly Dachshund and it was SO fun!
    We still have 1 Drive-in that I know of in LA, but now, the new thing is projecting the movies on the sides of big buildings or on outdoor screens on the beach. I say keep them! It’s a novel and fun way to see movies. I’ll check out Project Drive In though – I like where their hearts are.

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    • We have a couple of local places (including the Indianapolis Museum of Art) that offer summertime outdoor movie screenings. The cuisine isn’t the same, of course, but it’s the closest some communities will ever get to approximating the experience.

      My wife’s memories resemble yours — five kids in the back of a station wagon; settling for Happy Meals because they were cheaper than concession stand fare; then waiting to see who fell asleep first. Whatever the vehicle, however large the family — good times to be had. :)

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  16. Pobitro G. says:

    **** Pretty nice post. I’ve really enjoyed browsing your blog posts.
    In any case I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon! Thank you, I’ll try to come back more frequently.

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  17. Michael Snow says:

    “America’s remaining 360+ drive-ins…” I am amazed at that number! Are these all open? Here in South Dakota, I only knew of one open, a hundred miles away. I checked and found 7 listed as open. Of course, Hoosiers outnumber cowboys, more than 6 to 1. [I was at Earlham, in Richmond for 3 years.]

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    • I had trouble confirming the exact number still in business — the Project Drive-In promo video cites 366, while I caught another article saying 368. Maybe two more went out of business between the times those were made? Not sure.

      I was surprised to learn Indiana has more active drive-ins left that many other, larger states. Chalk it up to Hoosier fondness for the Good Ol’ Days, I guess.

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  18. debra colby says:

    Hi Randall! Here in Maine, we still a few drive-ins http://www.driveinmovie.com/ME.html
    up here….but the season is short. Here’s hoping that parents take the children, at least once, to experience it…b/c I have a feeling they’ll all be gone b4 long.

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    • If more than ten survive until the next generation, I’ll be happy but surprised. Between your locations in Maine and a few other commenters from California, it’s great to see that drive-ins still have coast-to-coast appreciation, at least!

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  19. You are from my neck of the woods. I can’t tell you how many nights I spent at the Westlake, and I cried when they tore it down. And to build what? A bunch of crap. I grew up on the west side, so we also went to the Maplecroft on occasion, which was west on 40 in the Belleville/ Stilesville area. It lasted longer, due to them switching it to an X rated drive in, but eventually they tore it down too. I too have been to the Tibbs, and I hope it can find a way to stay open. I recently moved up from Louisville, so when I found out that the Georgetown drive in had been blessed with private funding for their 2 screens, I voted for the Tibbs. I don’t see how any drive in with 4 screens can possibly find the money to upgrade. It will take finding some angels, like the Georgetown did. It’s so strange that the death knell of the last drive ins standing has come from the movie industry themselves. They should be ashamed!

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    • No argument there. Congrats to the Georgetown for finding a new lease on life — it’s nice to hear of a success story anywhere near us (using a wide definition of “near”). The Maplecroft must’ve been before my time, and I’m guessing there’s a reason why no grown-ups ever told me stories about it. :)

      As for the Tibbs, I’ve wondered the same thing about their screen count. I’m not sure if all four lots are packed every summer weekend, but I can’t imagine what kind of miracle it would take to upgrade all four. Having one digital projector and three screens showing classic movies doesn’t seem the way to go, either. I’m not sure they’ll see a 100% happy ending out of all this, but in this environment, anything besides total defeat would be a plus…

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  20. Juliette says:

    Last night I passed the last drive-in theater in my area. I thought of how many there used to be and all the stories everyone in my area has about growing up with drive-in movies! I enjoyed this story the first time around and was glad to see it again in Freshly Pressed (good to see one of my favorite blogs features). Congratulations!

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  21. awax1217 says:

    Loved it. Went to quite a few of them in the late 50’s. Saw mostly B movies. I remember the snack shop. Those huge speakers you hang on the car hoping they would not scratch the paint. Brings back memories.

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    • When my grandma would come with us, she’d constantly fret about the speaker. “Don’t scratch the window! Be careful! You’re gonna break the glass!” She made the struggle to get it set up Just Right even harder every time. But then we settled in and enjoyed the evening. Lovely memories, indeed.

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  22. Diana Hernandez says:

    I’ve never had the privilege of going to a drive-in movie. The first time I went to the theater was in 2000. I hated it. We were nearly hauled away to jail for bringing in our own snacks. When I saw Grease for the first time, I was fixed on the idea of going one day (even though John Travolta almost mauled Olivia Newton John). I’m 20 years old and it still hasn’t happened. Simply put, films aren’t what they should be, not when they’re run by tyrannical institutions intent on forcing you into bankruptcy.

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    • It’s a shame those massive corporate interests ultimately don’t much care where we enjoy the movies or how they can bring people together. Dreaming big here: I’d love to see one of the studios takes, say, thirty million from their petty cash fund and donate it to buy a few hundred projectors and keep nearly all these hardy small businesses alive. That’d just blow my mind. But I’m not holding my breath. After all, they need that thirty million to keep two or three superfluous junior executives on board!

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  23. Juan Knows says:

    We never had drive-in movie place in our city but most movie theatres here in the past usually occupy grand buildings with distinguishable architectural designs. Sadly, they all perished. Hope your drive-in movie place stays…it’s nice to have things to remind you of great childhood times.

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    • Amen to that. All our architecturally distinct theaters are long gone and demolished, replaced by large warehouse-shaped boxes, but I’ve heard there are still one or two old-style places in Chicago (just a few hours down the road) that I’ll have to check into someday…

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  24. segmation says:

    I hope the drive-in stays! We love going to the drive-in as a family here in San Diego!

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    • Awesome. Even though Hollywood is relatively nearby (compared to us, I mean), I wasn’t sure if drive-ins still had a presence in modern-day California or not. It’s good to know they still have a place out there. :)

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  25. jasonsoroski says:

    Terrific thoughts! You effectively tapped into my childhood as well, and I bet I’m not the only one. :-)

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    • Gotta be honest: I’m overwhelmed by the response! Apparently this resonated with a lot of folks — some close to my age, most of ‘em older. It’s great to know I’m not alone!

      If I were to repost this ten years from now, I’d probably have to explain myself to all the younger readers, with lots of diagrams, while assuring them that drive-ins really were a thing.

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  26. Dale says:

    My earliest movie-going memories were of Dad and Mom piling my two brothers and I into the family car and going to our local drive-in in Jackson, Michigan. They made us change into our pajamas because, invariably, we would fall asleep. We saw all the Herbie movies, as well as the Shaggy DA and other Disney classics. I have not been to a drive in for many years, but I think it is a crying shame that the few that are left may be forced to close so that film companies can generate higher profits.

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    • Agreed. I can only imagine how these closings will affect the surrounding communities. Here in Indy, the Tibbs is in a lower-income neighborhood; the nearest theaters are several miles away and cost a lot more. Having a Redbox on every corner is absolutely not the same thing.

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  27. DB says:

    Great piece. As far as I’m concerned, your mention of Super Fuzz was enough to merit the Freshly Pressed status. Congrats…

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    • Thanks! I was too young to tell if the effects or acting were good or not, and I loved that they gave Our Hero a bizarre weakness, just like all the best DC heroes. For some reason, that really impressed me at age 9.

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  28. Love this post…My father lives in a small Ontario town with a drive-in and we went last summer. I had a great time and am always on the hunt for the nearest drive-in to experience this again. The only challenge? It started raining and we had to watch the film through the interruption of windshield wipers.

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    • We endured the rain a few times, back in the day. We paid our low, low price to get in, and we were determined to get our money’s worth, storm or no storm, even if meant a lot of squinting and asking each other, “What’s happening up there?”

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  29. billpokins says:

    A very nice piece of work. I guess we just take the Drive-ins for granted these days. Our family makes mention when driving past that we should take in an outdoor movie. We never do any more as we acquire a movie from one of many sources, sit on a comfy couch, eat snacks, and for the most part everyone falls asleep, except me. Hey thanks for the use of your excellent vocabulary as a practicing lexacologist I truly enjoyed it.

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  30. A beautiful article. Just reminds me we used to be so happy with simple things as children but today those things are finding it hard to subscribe. Another such thing used to be letter and a postman. Today both are going towards oblivion.

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    • I remember letters! And mail that wasn’t junk. That really takes me back. My grandma lived with us and kept a steady stream of exchanges going with various relatives her age — all handwritten, not even so much as a manual typewriter (though she had one). Today we get the occasional thank-you card from politer, older relatives, and I have a sister-in-law who, for a couple of years, tried to revive the old tradition of the family Christmas letter. Otherwise, it’s all bills, ads, and a few magazine subscriptions (another tradition slowly going the dodo’s way…).

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  31. Good stuff! I remember driving past any of the four or five movie drive in theaters as a kid while movies were playing and I was fascinated by them. One of my earliest memories was as a kid seeing Superman, Oh God You Devil and a third film I can’t recall at the drive in with my family. We’re down to one theater in our area and it’s technically in Illinois, not MO where I live. I think it’s on it’s last leg as well, so it’ll be sad when there’s not drive in options.

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    • Even before the threat of digital conversion was looming, I’m guessing many drive-ins were already struggling to get by. To them I’m sure this situation is more salt in an already aching wound.

      You struck a nerve there with Oh, God!, though. I remember seeing one of the first two waaay back then at the Westlake. I just had a flashback for a second there, to a distant image of George Burns scaring John Denver in the shower. Haven’t thought about that in ages.

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  32. I want to cry every time I read about another drive-in closing. To think that the end of an era may be upon us is almost too much to consider.

    I lived, ate, and worked part-time at a drive-in located in Texarkana, for three and a half years during each summer of my high school years. Being paid was a fringe benefit. Working the concession stand was a riot! People watching, beat out any film action on the screen. From the inebriated, half-dressed, to those wearing hair rollers and bathrobes, the action-packed gave us our own previews of drama, comedy and thrill-seeker action. Oh, and then there were those suave and sophisticated gentlemen that lingered and loitered outside the stand until security chased them back to their auto’s…and of course the car trunks that opened to reveal the load of half smothered souls seeking a ‘free’ movie night.

    Seriously, your writing has stirred my soul. Thanks so much for reminding me of all this joy. I am enlisted in your effort to revive and survive so that we all may endure.

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    • Amazing details. Thanks very much for sharing that, and for the gracious words. You’ve rattled another buried memory from my brain — images of other patrons milling about in pajamas and night clothes, comfy for the evening and feeling right at home.

      Unfortunately, I just checked the Project Drive-In results and learned none of Indiana’s contenders made the final cut. Congrats to those nine winners, but I’m not looking forward to what the future holds for everyone else.

      Like

      • What a shame. Makes me wonder, though, could it ever be the same? Most likely, not. With gun violence and today’s drug culture…oh, but let us dream. Smile. Reflect… All the while knowing that it was something very special, and we belonged to it, and it was ours to claim, as well.

        Thanks again for the ‘stroll.’

        Like

  33. debopriya says:

    It was a very interesting read.

    Like

  34. My favorite route to Eureka, Calif. went right by a drive-in. Those glimpses burned into my mind. Only problem was that my peeks were often at the very worst scene in a movie (ie: Exorcist spewing). Thank you for an excellent post.

    Like

    • That’s a fascinating mental image, which reminds me of one or two rare visits to other multi-screen drive-ins in my youth, when my preteen self would sometimes strain to see R-rated material on the other screens and thinking, “Cooooool!” Boys would be boys and all that. Sigh.

      And thanks for stopping by!

      Like

      • Ha! so…you can’t tell me that you still don’t do that sometimes. And secretly, girls peek, too. They just don’t tell anyone. At least until they are older and not afraid anymore. signed…Older and not afraid

        Like

  35. clhall25 says:

    I have never been to a drive-in theater but I really want to go. One of my friends told me that there is one close to where I live at. I would love for my boyfriend to take me on a date to a drive-in movie. I think they should save this drive-in movie and create more!

    Like

  36. debralambers says:

    Sad enough that our beloved VW Bus will no longer be manufactured and yet ‘another’ for the history books, but Drive-In Theaters? Nooooooooo! :)

    Like

  37. popheadlines says:

    It’s been a long time since I’ve been to the drive-in, but they are such an important part of pop culture and my childhood. I think they are all closed by me. I’m going to follow your blog. I hope you’ll follow mine too — I’d love your opinion on some of my pop culture articles.

    Like

  38. MAYBERRY NO LONGER HAS A DRIVE-IN ANYMORE…

    Like

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