What’s Summer Without A Night At The Drive-In?


This weekend we went to the Drive-In.

I love the Drive-In. I can remember going as a kid. My parents would load us up in their lime green station wagon with the wood paneling. We would fill the car up with  junk food, blankets, lawn chairs and drinks, and go see movies like: The Black Hole, Howard the Duck, and The Ice Pirates.

I remember sneaking into the back seat and pretending to go to sleep so I could watch Friday the 13th Part 4 through the hatch-back windows of the wagon, peering over the hoods of hundreds of dark cars, ducking as Jason stalked his victims through the rainy forest.

I never realized what went on in the back seats of the other cars around me, or how many teenage boys were using Mr. Vorhees as the perfect excuse for a little cuddle-action. I wasn’t interested in any kind of  voyeurism other than the kind on the screen – well, that’s not entirely true, but this post isn’t about that kind of stuff, now is it?

There was always something magical about the yellow and green lights of the Drive-In, like something out of the world’s most magnificent putt-putt park. Cars line up in rows, with those little silver speakers hanging on poles.

The silver screen would stretch out in front, like a giant white sheet of possibilities. Sometimes there would be a playground set up in front of it for the kiddies to get their energy out before the show.

Usually, if we went to one of those indoor chain theaters we only got to see one film, no matter what else cool was playing. In those days, if you paid for a movie, you could stay and watch it as many times in a row as you wanted to. But let’s be honest, most movies are not Star Wars. Who wants to watch Rescuers Down Under on a loop? (Look, I love that film, but once is fine . . .) But at the Drive-In, we got to see at least two, and sometimes three films. Not only that, but you could always count on amazing cartoons advertising the types of wonderful refreshments that you could never get at your local metroplex, such as the culinary feats described on this video that I “borrowed” from the nostalgia blog:

These ads were sometimes as entertaining as the movie, itself, and I will be honest, more than one of them made me want to go down to the lobby to get myself a treat. In fact, I am kind of craving a hot dog and a sparkling soft drink right now.

I hadn’t been to the Drive-In yet this year, so of course when I saw that our local one was showing Despicable Me 2, Monsters University, and Iron Man 3, I had to go. The other screen was showing The Lone Ranger, World War Z, and Man of Steel. I had already seen all three, and although I really enjoyed two of them – the odd man out being the uneven, unfunny, and unenjoyable Lone Ranger – I wanted to take the kids to see Despicable Me 2.

As a matter of fact, earlier in the day we had tried to take the family to Despicable Me 2 at our local megaplex, only to discover that this little flick is more popular than The Beatles (but contrary to John Lennon’s assertation, not as popular as Jesus). All the shows had been sold out since Wednesday. Obviously, when I found out about the triple feature I knew we had to get there early, or risk not being let in. I washed and vacuumed the ol’ minivan, and we high-tailed it. The first film was set to start at 9:20 pm.

This pic was taken at 8:10.


The place was packed and it only got fuller. I decided that if we were going to support the snack bar, I had better head over before it was filled with screaming kids, indecisive grandmothers, and saggy-britched gangbangers. So I grabbed the hand of my eldest son, and together we went to the lobby, to get ourselves a treat.


This particular Drive-In is called the Landmark Twin Starlite. It is very much a throwback and really revels in 1950’s nostalgia. I mean look, right there is a neon sign that reads that this is a genuine 50’s Drive-in. See?


In fact. this place has tons of neon which sets the mood and prepares you fro what lies beyond these great glass doors.


And what lies within? Well more neon, of course. Also a menu that makes your local chain theater get refreshment envy. This place has it all. You can get hot dogs, pretzels, hamburgers, funnel cakes, ice cream, french fries, cotton candy, regular candy, Pepsi products, salted peanuts, and even a world famous Chilly Dilly.


We got in there just in the nick of time. Soon the line was snaking its way around, and eventually out the back door. By the time we left, the lines were reaching Disneyland equivalent.


In front of us, we had practically no line.

What line we had moved down a bar and you picked your own refreshments, cafeteria style. Notice the mammoth pretzels baking under bright warming lights. Beyond that is a case holding french fries, hotdogs, and hamburgers.


My son and I decided to snag a grape cotton candy and a large popcorn, seeing as we had some other food waiting in the car. But this certainly was not my only expedition into the temple of junk food.


One thing that is awesome about the modern Drive-In is their usage of modern FM Radio Sound! This means that if your car is awesome and has a Bose system, then you get amazingly good sound, with deep bass tones and crisp highs.


Unfortunately, my mini-van has something called a Wakataki stereo, which is roughly made from cardboard and some baling wire. Luckily, my wife has a late 90’s cassette player boom box which we put in front of us as a snazzy center channel. With the van speakers behind us, it was a jury-rigged surround system that came this close to being THX certified.

As we exited the refreshment center, it was just getting dark. Luckily, the Drive-In had snazzy center aisle markers that lit up to help you find your way to your vehicle.


As day turned to dusk and dusk turned to darker dusk, the feature began. Unfortunately, I couldn’t really see much of the feature.

You see, high-profile vehicles such as mini-vans, Hummers, and semi-cabs are supposed to park at the yellow poles. Cars can park at the green poles, as is seen in this picture below, which shows the same Drive-In that I was at, but a different night. You can tell it is a different night because the place is not so packed with cars that you could actually walk between some of them without going on Ephedrine.

Unfortunately, the place was so packed that if you did not arrive at least one year before the start time, you were destined to drive up and down the rows of cars with your headlights blaring brightly, searching for a parking spot, like a procrastinater at the mall on Christmas Eve. Eventually, the high-profile vehicles gave up searching for the yellow poles – which had all been taken up last Easter – and just parked in a green . . . right in front of us . . .


Anyhow, eventually we were all situated and sat back to watch the flick. Above you will notice a picture of the projector shooting out its colorful beams of light into the night, searching for a place to land so they can illuminate the fibers of the screen and breed their entertainment for the land to relish and enjoy.

Yeah, it’s only a  projector, but it is so much more. It is a time warp, a magic ray, and a teleportation device all in one. It can make you believe anything and question everything you believe.

This particular one was challenging my view of anthropomorphic food by beaming images of dancing suicidal hotdogs, who slathered themselves with Ketchup and then presented themselves to the floating heads of their gods, for devouration – which is a pretty freakin’ freaky concept, if you ask me. Who came up with this stuff, anyway?

IMG_4050As the night wore on, we were enthralled by the antics of the Minions, the Monsters, and the man in the Iron mask. But eventually, all good things must come to an end. When the final short clip of *SPOILER* Tony and Bruce finally faded out, we drove along the conveniently marked lit EXIT signs.


At the end of the red EXIT road, lie the treasure trove of trash.

Really, this is a pretty cool idea. Let’s be honest, here (and really, if you can’t be honest here, where can you be, hmmm?) most people are slobs. They throw their trash hither-nither and expect someone else to clean up after them. But this? This is a brilliant idea:


Imagine how much cleaner the world would be if we had trash centers like these, for the common man to bring their rubbish and dispose of it by tossing it from their car windows.


What’s that, you say? We do have these places? They are called dumps?

Stuff and nonsense. I don’t know what world you live in, but my world is littered with the rubbish of the rabble.

Anyhow, the Drive-In was a roaring success. We had a blast! It was also a nice nostalgic reminder of summers past, where the june-bugs sang, the lightening bugs flashed, and Jason Vorhees chopped up naked campers.

If there is any Drive-In, anywhere near you, I would suggest you pay it a visit. Pick your three movies, and indulge. And hey, if you get a good parking spot without a Semi-cab behind you and you don’t like the movies you picked, just turn around and change the radio station. Wallah! Three different movies! Unless your car stereo is a Wakataki, and then you are better off just stringing up some tin cans and taking it across to the other parking lot and tying it to the speaker stand.

I leave you with Homer Simpson going to the lobby:

2 thoughts on “What’s Summer Without A Night At The Drive-In?

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