Blast from movies past

By Eric Povish
February 12, 2009

Shannon Keough

Fresh popcorn? Check. Soda? Check. Friends? Check. Sitting in your car with the windows down, the seat back about to watch two of the season’s hottest movies? Huh? Not sounding familiar?

This may come as a surprise to many, but before movie theaters, the place to go on the weekends with the over-priced drinks and candy was a thing called a drive-in movie theater.

A drive-in movie theater is, simply put, an outside movie theater. Instead of rows of seats, there are rows of parking spaces. Instead of a monster sound system, you either tune into the theater’s private radio station or you listen through a sound box that is located outside your window.

Drive-in theaters began to grow in popularity throughout the ’40s and ’50s and held strong up until the ’80s. Towards the end of the ’80s, Hollywood and all of its glory began to enter families living rooms thanks to cable TV and VCR.

Megan Fasano, sophomore education major, remembers how there used to be a drive-in theater near her growing up in New York, but how it has since closed.

“I would really like to go to one just for the experience, but I wish there were some a lot closer to us,” Fasano said.

Drive-in movie theaters are slowly dying out. Those that are still in operation are usually a great distance away and when there are a few movie theaters in town it is hard to justify driving the distance when you can see the same movie just down the road.

“I definitely think it would be a cool idea because with what you pay in food and everything like that, it’s definitely going to make up what you would spend in gas driving,” Mike Rechner, junior criminal justice major, said. “Plus, you are seeing two movies so it just makes for an overall better deal.”

Both modern day theaters and drive-ins have their own advantages and disadvantages.

At a drive-in you do not have to worry about the annoying people sitting behind you talking, but in today’s world, you will have to worry about the cost of gas to get to the drive-in, unless of course you’re fortunate to have one near by.

Worried about spending the $10.50 on a movie Friday night and not liking it? At a drive-in you get a double feature for less than the cost of a standard movie ticket.

“I think it really is cheaper because everyone is always trying to sneak food and drinks into the movies,” Fasano said. “It’s really tough on college kids because none of us really have the extra money to spend.”

“I think they are really cool,” Bobby Cope, senior English and communication major, said. “When I saw ‘War Of The Worlds,’ I got really freaked out because in the movie the trees were moving and the night sky was lighting up and the same thing was happening in real life because it was the fourth of July and there were fireworks going off. It really added a sense of realism not found in traditional theaters.”

Although many have closed in the area, there are still a few in existence. Becky’s Drive-in, located in Berlinsville, Pa., has been in operation for more than 50 years.

“I bet there is only a dozen or so left in the country,” Richard Mitchell, mathematics lecturer, said. Mitchell remembers going to the local drive-in a lot with family and friends when he was growing up, as well as remembering it being a popular hang out during college. “They used to charge $2 a car load on certain nights, so my friends and I would all pile in the car and spend the night watching movies.”

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Eric Povish

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