The other day Charlene was waxing nostalgic about drive-in movie theatres. Whether you remember them from the days when Dad would pack the family, blankets, pillows and a basket of goodies in the station wagon —
— Or the days when you and a special someone (or a gang of special someones) would pack a two-four in the van — the memory of drive-in movies has to bring a smile to your face.
The movies were old and cheesy.
The food was crappy.
The sound was tinny.
The little heaters almost never worked.
But still, there was something magical about sitting in your own little foggy car world watching a movie on a 100-foot screen. About walking into the concession stand between features and running into everyone in town; gasping at who was at the drive-in with whom; trying not to peer into other cars on your way back to yours.
I always loved the ads between the features. Especially the one with the dancing weiner and bun. The bun beckons; the weiner throbs and bounces around around — it hesitates, doesn’t know what to do; the bun splays itself wide open; the weiner dives in. Remember that one? Wasn’t it creepy?
So anyway, Charlene was wondering whatever happened to drive-in movie theatres.
Well, Charlene, as you know back in the late 1920s some young kid decided he would try to find a way to combine his two favourite things: cars and movies.
He started by setting up a projector on the hood of his car and nailing a screen to some trees in his backyard. He then spent most of the next few years perfecting the parking arrangement so that every car would have a good view of the screen.
With $30,000 Richard Hollingshead opened his first drive-in movie theatre in New Jersey (Yay, NJ!) in June of 1933. He charged 25 cents per car and 25 cents per person.
Actual photo of the first-ever drive-in movie theatre.
(And no, I didn’t take it myself)
The rest is more or less history. Drive-ins were mainly popular in North America and Australia, though apparently there are, or were, a few in Europe as well.
HOWEVER, after the 1950s, our good friend, Urban Sprawl and our other good friend, Cable Television, kind of killed off the drive-ins. At the same time as customers started staying home to keep up with their 500 TV channels, developers were offering big bucks for those huge acres of drive-in movie land just outside of town. They were offers drive-in owners couldn’t refuse.
The good news, Charlene, is that Nostalgia, being what it is, decided to cause a bit of a resurgence in drive-ins about 10 years ago. And, while most of us may think the drive-in has gone the way of the Dodo, there are, in fact, drive-in movie theatres all over the place.
The closest drive-in to Ottawa in the Cine Parc Templeton over in Gatineau. It opens for the season on May 1st. I’m thinking a field trip needs to be organized!!
For drive-in theatres in other parts of Canada, check here. And check here for a list of drive-in across the US. There’s even an Autokino site in case Gila is feeling a bit nostalgic for an autokino experience. I couldn’t find any drive-in listings for anywhere else in Europe or the UK. But if Germany has some there must be drive-in movie theatres in other countries on the other side of the ocean, right?