On the Other Hand, it’s Drive-In Season!

Matt’s been belly-aching about his favourite movie rental place biting the dust while the rest of us saw it coming for – what? – the past 15 years or so? Only teasing, Matt. Elgin Street Video was THE place; it managed to be a neighbourhood fixture and also a city-wide go-to for its eclectic catalogue that was worth getting your knees dusty for. The original owner was a bit of Luddite, like Matt, unwilling to believe that new technologies could topple his empire, having famously quoted to the Ottawa Citizen in 1994 “We certainly know the value of this so-called information highway has been grossly exaggerated in the media” but alas the internet finally caught up with his legacy (he died in 2008, his video store outliving him an impressive 7 years thanks to friendsdrivein and family who vowed to keep it going). The store will shutter for good at the end of the month, and in the meantime, the store’s contents are on sale and everything must go. Everything? Even the wacky memorabilia? Even John Candy’s pants? Well, that remains to be seen.

So while Matt’s throwing a funeral for the crumbs of his nostalgia, I’m still indulging in mine.

The drive in. Oddly enough, the drive-in was almost done in by videotape. It nearly vanished when people could simply rent a tape at Blockbuster and take it home to their living rooms instead. They’ve been going extinct for 40 years now, but here’s the thing: they’re not dead yet. And unlike DVD (or VHS!) rentals, there seems to be a throwback factor that’s keeping their faint hearts beating.

Why do I love the drive-in? What’s not to love about seeing a movie under the stars? About the sense of community involved in pointing our cars in the same direction, tuning in to the same radio station, honking our horns in unison to tell the projectionist we’re ready, flashing smiles along the way as we make the dark stumble towards the bathrooms, greet each other over popcorn, walk our dogs during intermission.

By the late 1950s, one-third of theaters in the US were drive-ins. It was an affordable way to see a movie (and often two or three), the drive-ins relying more heavily on concessions and the ticket prices staying quite low, often a set price for a whole carful of movie goers. Turns out that wasn’t a super sustainable business model and today there are fewer than 350 operating drive-ins in the US (there are about 40 000 indoor screens, by contrast). But there are some things that deserve a resurgence, and like vinyl records currently enjoying a comeback, so are drive-in theatres.

This weekend, our local (the only local) drive-in theatre showed its first double bill of the season (drive-in season in snowy Canada is tragically short). It never matters what they’re showing; concessionSean and I go every other weekend, which is as often as they bring in new movies. The movies are almost always movies we’ve already seen paired with a movie we had no intention of seeing, but we go. We bring blankets and pillows and mosquito netting and a picnic, and a bottle of champagne. We watch the movies with varying degrees of interest, sometimes with rapt attention from the edge of our captain’s chairs, other times stretched out in the backseat, half an eye on the screen and someone’s hand up someone else’s shirt. Being at the drive-in reminds us old married fuddy-duddies of the art of making out. It inspires us to learn new ways of doing old tricks so that the Volkswagen doesn’t get to a-rocking. It gives us a new appreciation of the suburbs – the night sky, the fresh air, the full moon, the fireflies. I can’t say exactly why we love to go, but we do.

Maybe it is a form of reminiscing. As kids, Mom would have us all put on our jammies before piling into the van. We’d negotiate amongst ourselves for who would sit in the middle seats, and who would go way back. There’d be cheesies and juice boxes during the first film, the family one, and during the second we were expected to sleep. I remember sneaking surreptitious peaks at the screen during Crocodile Dundee 2, a movie only tantalizing to someone who’d been told it was off-limits, “too grown-up” (it was rated PG).

Now we have the luxury of leaving if we don’t like the second feature, but we rarely do. The movie is secondary at the Templeton Cineparc. Foremost is the holding of hands, the nuzzling, the ability to talk through the movie without being shushed, smuggling in a whole pizza if the mood strikes, and having privacy but still enjoying the communal aspect of watching a movie with your neighbours. We’ve only just been and I’m already itching to go back.

 

 

 

Do you have childhood memories of the drive-in? Do you still go? Do you have one near by?

30 thoughts on “On the Other Hand, it’s Drive-In Season!

  1. adeleinglasses

    Great post! I enjoyed reading it, I’m absolutely guilty of golden age thinking, if I could live in any film it would probably be American Graffiti. Unfortunately, being based in the U.K., drive-in theatres seem even more rare. Long live drive-in’s (so I can experience it one day)!

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    1. Jay Post author

      I hope you do!
      Matt’s post about that very movie got referenced in his old nostalgia post, probably because it’s the ultimate ode to nostalgia.

      Liked by 2 people

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  2. FilmMunch

    Awesome! We have a local drive in, which I removed going to almost two decades ago, and we watched A Bugs Life, we had a feast in the car, it was amazing! Still remember it fondly till this day! 😁
    Great post 👌

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    1. Jay Post author

      A Bug’s Life! It’s funny how some movies will stand out just because of how or with whom we saw them. I saw Armageddon at a drive-in, although not for the first time. And the movie Somersby, which I can’t believe I even recall.

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      1. FilmMunch

        This is very true! Drive-ins have an iconic feel to them, it’s no wander we remember what we watched 👌
        This makes me want to go! 😁

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  3. Drew

    Drive-in theaters are the best! There is one not too far from where some of my family lives. I still try to make it there every now and then. It’s a simple experience but somehow manages to be loads of fun.

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  4. diahannreyes

    I love the drive-in! We have one a couple of cities away and it’s so much fun to go. I love that feeling of being in your car and getting to watch a movie on the big screen. Also makes me feel like going back in time. Grease was one of my favorite movies growing up- and I love that scene with Sandy and Danny in the car.

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  5. In My Cluttered Attic

    I loved this post. I feel this is a part of nostalgia that should never become nostalgic, for a variety of reasons. Of course, number one is price and value. Second, if you’re a couple, well you know why there. Third, as you again mentioned, smuggling in your own food, another savings, although, this probably doesn’t help our cause in the long run, and robs our kids of the opportunity to make the trek to the snack bar in their jammies, which should be a rite of passage. As a kid, I remember us popping corn and buying sodas (although, we didn’t do it all the time) and mom and dad herding us into the car around dusk on any given Saturday night, and heading to the drive-in to see a double-feature. We would do, as you, and sneak peeks over at the other screen (almost like getting four movies for the price of two, or even one) and feeling we got a steal. There was something magical about being under the stars, and seeing the landscape, or the city behind the screen, as in your photo. There was also the playground down below the screen, where we could go play while waiting for the movie to start. Sometimes we would huddle on the hood of the car wrapped in blankets to watch. I hear the Disney people now have a drive-in, but it’s indoors, in Orlando. Nice idea, but I bet it isn’t the same. We’re lucky, we have a 5 screen drive-in here, and in the Summer, it is packed. Hope these giants of film never go completely extinct.

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    1. Jay Post author

      I’ve noticed plenty of adults making the trek in their jammies, too! The second screen at our local drive-in plays french movies…or at least movies that are dubbed in french. 🙂 This week they watched Les Avengers.

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  6. ruth

    I’ve actually never been to a drive in but I’ve always wanted to go to one. The thing is, there’s nothing near me but I think there’s a Movie in the Garden type event which is kinda similar, just without the cars 🙂

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  7. Jackie

    It’s been ages since I have been to see a movie at a drive-in. My Mom and I used to go all the time when I was a kid. I loved seeing movies that way. Now that you have me thinking – I can’t remember the last time I saw a drive-in theatre. :-/

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    1. Jay Post author

      They’re always a little out of the way because the real estate is just too expensive, but it’s kind of nice going for a little drive to the “country”

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  8. Jordan Dodd

    Rentals are still around here. Our internet speeds are dinosaur age, which is why Netflix started down here a couple of months ago and people are already having issues streaming HD. They wonder why Australians are ‘the biggest pirates’… uhh cos we often have no other way of watching stuff!

    I haven’t been to the drive-in since I was ten. There is one still running on the other side of town but it doesn’t show much

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    1. Jay Post author

      Yeah, that makes it hard. And here I was feeling sorry for anyone who couldn’t see a movie without a waiter bring them fruity drinks. I thought that was the dark ages!

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      1. Jordan Dodd

        yeah Blockbuster still have a massive range here, Netflix started here literally less than two months ago. Before that it wasn’t accessible in this country. A lot of Aussie films are going direct to online/DVD cos all this hollywood trash takes all the box office and they don’t make squat. I hope they suceed, aussie upcoming sci-fi INFINI looks great. Straight to digital release. But will Aussie be able to stream it in HD??

        Ideally they would have a downloadable file, but no no, too close to piracy, and piwacy equals stealing =/

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    2. Jay Post author

      You guys still have Blockbuster?
      It is hard to find the out of the way movies. We get VOD through our cable provider, but it doesn’t have much of a back catalogue, let alone foreign or art house films. Google Play isn’t much better, though I do ‘rent’ from them a fair bit. We have Netflix but their inventory is so sporadic you never know what you’ll get. A few gems, a lot of horseshit, and nothing really recent.

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  9. Kyle

    I didn’t go to my first drive-in until a couple years ago. However, now I live about an hour away from one and I’m trying to take my 2 kids at least once a summer. It’s such a fun time.

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    1. Jay Post author

      That’s awesome. It’s a really vivid memory for me as a kid. We didn’t get to go often, probably a once per summer treat if we were lucky, but it always felt like an occasion.

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  10. Pingback: Reel Quick Movie Reviews | Assholes Watching Movies

  11. cinemike16

    I still have an active drive-in about 10 min away from me, it’s perfect for father-daughter movie nights. Going to a multiplex would cost me over $50 for tickets and snacks (that is if I’m feeling honest and don’t smuggle anything in), going to the drive-in I pay less than $30 for TWO movies and get to enjoy a juicy burger, fries and ice cold beer (I have to bring the beer in myself but that’s no problem lol) at the same time. We go fairly regularly, sometimes to see the same movies a second time just to do our part to keep such a dying breed alive. The way I look at it it’s far too warm in the summertime to sit in a crowded multiplex when you can sit outside under the stars and see the same movie.

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    1. Jay Post author

      Absolutely agreed – why not enjoy a movie AND the summer evening? Summers are too short as it is. We go quite regularly as well. Love the father daughter idea, but I’m constantly surprised to find plenty of singles taking advantage as well. And why not really, and I suppose since I’m “constantly” surprised, I should just stop being suprrised by it.

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