Sunday, May 31, 2009

Drive-In Dreams

He outstretched his arm, all clever-like, feigning a big ole stretch and repositioned it around her shoulder. She smiled and nudged closer into the crook of his arm as they watched the movie dance past their windshield.

Remember that little slice of Americana called the drive-in? Well it’s not dead yet.

It’s been at least 25 years since I went to a drive-in movie theater. I recall those trips were all about finding a safe place to “get busy” in the back seat of a very spacious white-leather interior/red-cherry exterior, Oldsmobile Delta 88.

Well the drive-in isn’t just for James Dean and Sandra Dee. Last night me and my puerile posse packed up an SUV full of blankets, pillows, whoopers and chips and headed to the drive-in movie theater just 15 minutes from my Cali-home. The line of cars waiting to get in was impressive. Apparently, the drive-in is still very much alive and kicking.

A little research taught me that drive-in popularity peaked in the late 1950s with there being a high of 4063 drive in theaters. Now there are only about 377 nationwide (18 of those in California.) This drive-in was not exactly as I remembered them. Rather than the one mammoth screen, this parking lot was now packed (like so many theaters) with six more modest screens arranged in a crescent shape. We paid a very reasonable $10 for the carload and pulled in by our assigned screen, setting our radio to the movie’s station. The films were projected from a round building in the back of the lot that also housed the concessions (a perfect name for all indulgences sugary and buttery that temporarily silence children.)

This was starting to feel familiar. I loaded the kids up on the roof rack (oh, on how many long car rides have I dreamed of doing that?) They mounted the pile Iwo Jima style, my eldest victoriously planting the bag of Tostitos in his lap and settled in for their first drive-in experience.

“This is so cool Mom, thanks for bringing us!” I heard from above.

There was no room for me on the roof. And so, I huddled in my chaste car catching wanton glimpses of the couple in the pick-up beside me. Thinking, “Damn, I miss those days of the Delta 88.”

See if there is a drive-in near you –visit and search for your state.

What are your memories of the drive-in?

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