We visited San Diego last week for a few days at the beach and ended up going to a double feature at a local drive-in theater one night. The kids had never been to a drive-in before, and we had a great time.
They were showing “Epic” around 8:30 p.m. as the early show and then “Star Trek Into the Darkness” at 10:25 p.m. Walsh really wanted to see the new “Star Trek” movie and we figured the 6-year-old would fall asleep during it and wouldn’t be scared. (I liked “Star Trek” even better at the drive-in than I did at the IMAX 3D.)
So we saw two movies for $23. (Adults were $7 a person and it was $3 each for the kids.) We brought in our own popcorn, candy and drinks. (I’m not sure on the economics of it — is that not enough money to support keeping up the projectors, the screens and paying to get the movies from the distributors? It did seem like a deal, but there’s very little overhead with an empty parking lot.)
The back seats on our mini-van could be switched out two different ways. We watched the first feature with the seats flipped up so the bottom of the seats became the back and the backs were under your legs. We also brought a couple of lawn chairs for outside the car. For the second movie, we made the seat disappear and the kids just laid flat on the ground. The 6-year-old did fall asleep partially through “Star Trek” as predicted.
I really liked that you could talk, gasp, exclaim and be fairly loud at a drive-in without bothering anyone else. You could cuddle up, switch seats and let the kids move around. I liked bringing in my own food, and I liked that the 6-year-old could just lay down and fall asleep when she was ready.
The sound comes through your FM stereo so if you go, you have to crank your car like every 30 minutes for a few minutes to make sure your battery doesn’t die.
So why did drive-ins die out if they are such great family fun? Here’s a theory and some stats from a travel site on AOL.com.
From the Gadling.com:
“It’s one of the icons of American civilization, combining Hollywood with car culture. The drive-in movie theater was once a mainstay of every American city, and plenty of small rural towns too. In the 1950s there were more than 4,000 of them. They were a place for families to enjoy a night out together, and for teenagers to be initiated into the games of adulthood.”
“Now the drive-in theater has fallen on hard times. According to The United Drive-In Theatre Owners Association, there are currently only 366 drive-ins in the United States with a total of 606 screens. The states with the most theaters are Pennsylvania (33) and Ohio (31). Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii and Louisiana sadly have no drive-ins. Many other states are in a precarious position with only one or two.”
Competition from cable TV and movie rentals along with rising real estate costs have seriously hurt the drive-in theater industry, yet it clings to life. It’s gone from that great American hero – the success story – to that other great American hero – the underdog.
The first drive-in opened in New Jersey in 1933 and the idea soon caught on. Their heyday came in the economic boom years of the 1950s and ’60s. They began to feel the pinch in the 1970s with the spread of more TV channels. With VCRs and cable TV becoming popular in the late 1970s and early ’80s, things got even worse.”
My family used to go when I was a kid. I remember seeing “Freaky Friday” with Jodie Foster. I went to one probably 20 years ago that was off of I-85. But I think the only drive-in left in Atlanta is the Starlight Six Drive-in off of Moreland Avenue. Has anyone been to the Moreland Avenue one? How’s the crowd? Is it too boisterous or a nice mix?
Have you been to a drive-in lately? Have your kids ever gone? Would you go to the Moreland Avenue one? What are your tips and tricks for going to the drive-in? (I saw a lot of families with a plan – with coolers, blankets, footrests, all kinds of things.)