Why we love drive-in theaters


You should thank the movie gods if you are lucky enough to have a drive-in movie theater near you.

At the height of drive-in popularity, there were 4,063 in 1958. In 1952, drive-ins actually surpassed traditional theaters in attendance. By 1989, there were only 999. The good news is, though, that the number of drive-ins has been stable since then, and you should support the one near you.

There is a charm about drive-ins. It’s a community event, where it’s OK for kids to run around before the movie starts, we can wear pajamas, make out, drink a beer, or even chat during the movie without bothering anyone. There is a freedom at the drive-in you don’t get at a regular theater. Granted, the sound system is your car (which is actually a bonus), the image isn’t as sharp, and sometimes the smell of pot from the teenagers car next to you can be overwhelming, but we feel the charm outweighs the negatives.

3. The Novelty: Call us corny, but there’s a nostalgic novelty from the drive-in. The Malta Drive-In, in Malta, NY, still plays those corny snack stand reminder videos, and has everyone honk their horns before the movie starts. I just love that. It’s so much fun. Their snack stand is like many of the other drive-in theaters I’ve been to, it’s old, straight out of the 50s, everything is deep friend, and the prices are cheaper than traditional theaters.

2. Price and value: It’s hard to beat a double feature for $8 for an adult. We had our choice of “Robin Hood” and “The Backup Plan” or “Iron Man 2” and “Shrek Forever After.” Not bad, considering these are new movies. I was glad to see both were sold out. Our theater charges $5 if you bring your own food, but we opted for the popcorn at the stand, which was $5.75 for a monster tub.

1. Freedom: You get to horse around at the drive-in, as long as you’re not a jerk. One of my favorite things to do is make shadow puppets on the screen during intermission. It’s really gratifying to make the dog shadow puppet eat the big tub of popcorn on the screen the theater is advertising. Also, you can chat in your car without bothering anyone, as long as you’re not loud about it. You can put the air conditioning on or turn up the heat, open the moon roof, put your seat wayyyyy back, bring a pillow, determine how loud you want the sound, and our drive-in lets me bring my dog. Try doing all that at a mega cine-plex. The other aspect is, you’re outside when the sun’s setting. It’s a perfect way to spend a summer evening.

10 responses to “Why we love drive-in theaters

  1. I used to enjoy the drive-in as a kid. I think the last time we went to one was in Rome, NY, when we saw “True Lies” and “Speed”.

  2. You gotta check one out this summer. The sound is much better now. They use a radio signal and you listen with your car stereo.

    Thanks for your comment.

  3. It’s all about the snack bars which traditionally have lower prices and offer A LOT MORE food than traditional movie theater snack bars. Also, you can still watch (or at least listen to the movie) while you are getting snacks.

    Back to that freedom thing, you can bring a garbage bag filled with homemade popcorn and other food and nobody looks twice at you. Trying doing that at your local Cineplex 16.

    I’ve never seen a drive-in that charges you $5 to bring in your own food, but to be fair, that’s still a good deal. Regular theaters don’t make crap off of ticket sales so I can’t imagine that drive-ins fare any better. The vast majority of sale of a ticket (up to 95% depending on the film, and the rate is determined by the studios) is collected by the studios so I have never had a problem supporting the snack bar, but when you’ve got a situation with a drive-in where the practice of bringing in your own food is almost expected and encouraged, you really should help them out.

    After all, the other other consideration in all of this is that by goingto a driv-in, you are supporting a local small business and your local economy instead of some national corporation. I’ve got nothing against national corporations, but I think its good policy to always support your local companies when possible… especially when they provide such a great entertainment value!

    Also, with price, it’s usually even cheaper than $8 per head because most drive-in’s still charge by the carload.

    • I forgot about the carload deal. The one in Buffalo is like that. There are a few drive-ins around here, and we’re lucky. There are plenty of places that don’t, and plenty of people who have never been. I never went until I was in my 20s because there weren’t any in Rochester.

      I don’t mind paying $5 in the slightest for bringing in food. The snack bar there had tons of food. Unfortunately, the popcorn was awful. Next time, I’ll bring my own and pay the $5.

      The best part is that I can bring my dog. I just love that.

  4. Hey, Matt, don’t you remember Lakeshore Drive In in Greece? That place was awesome.

    The last movie I saw there was Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. 😦

    • You know, I never went there. I was 13 when it closed. It’s sad that there are no drive-ins in the immediate Rochester area. There are several around Albany.

  5. themoviebros.wordpress.com’s done it once again! Amazing post!

  6. Pingback: The real reason I love movies: Popcorn « The Movie Brothers

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s