I’m a day late with this, so you may have seen it. If not: rejoice. Drive-in theaters still exist in the metro area.
That’s assuming you like them, I guess. Not everyone does. It’s one of those things about which we’re expected to have warm nostalgic memories. Like so many other things, we let our childhood memories temper the actual experience. We remember how cool it was to hit the snack bar; we forget Dad’s eruptive reaction when we dumped the shake down the speaker grille on the dashboard. The reality isn’t always perfect – the last Drive-in I attended had a speaker that made everyone sound like they were gargling nails in a empty warehouse, and during the first feature the rain came down in blinding sheets. We turned on the heat, which fogged the window. Couldn’t hear, couldn’t see. As a result, the subtle nuances of the film (Rambo: First Blood) were mostly lost. We left.
But that doesn’t mean I won’t take my daughter to one, because I must; it’s something kids need to do. Our hometown had two theaters, the Starlite and the Moonlite.
Note: “Church Service Every Sunday.” I would have love to know how they handed communion. Roller-skates were involved, perhaps.
The Starlite was just a few blocks from our house. Sunday nights when we drove back from the farm, I’d catch sight of those giant silent heads glowing in the dark, talking about something – very mysterious and thrilling when you’re five. (It was right by the airport, too, and I wondered if the guys in the control tower ever took their eyes off the radar to sneak a look at the cheap teen beach-bikini flicks.)
Couldn’t wait to go, and it didn’t disappoint. There was an ancient playground at the bottom of the screen – more like a Tetanus Distribution Center, really, with all those rusty pipes – and we’d play beneath the screen in footie pajamas for a while, then head back to the car for hot dogs and popcorn. You’d end up with a stomach ache, asleep in back seat, exhausted and content. Summer in a small town.
The drive-in closed a few years after I left high school; the land became too valuable to waste on a big seasonal attraction, and a grocery store replaced it. There's no evidence left, but I never pass the site without thinking about it, just as I rarely drive down France without a dim recollection of the giant drive-in that stood near the freeway. The list of lost Minnesota drive-ins is long, but some still stand, and if they perish we've only ourselves to blame . I always say this is the year I’ll go back to the drive-in, but it never happens. This year, perhaps.
I hope they show this before the movie begins.
(And here’s an evocative slide show from a local survivor.)