Drive-In Theatres Spell Summer and Nostalgia

Susan Frissell, Editor

June 6 is National Drive-In Movie Day, and believe it or not, there are still plenty of drive-in movie theaters in the U.S. Most recently, I read an article about several in Indiana and it motivated me to pass along some of the “do’s and don’ts” of Drive-In etiquette. Indiana, the most western state that is still in the Eastern time zone, is the state with the most miles of major highways in the country. It makes sense they would have the biggest number of Drive-Ins still in operation.

Fifty years ago, there were very few people who had not been to a Drive-In theatre. Obviously, times have changed, but for us baby-boomers and many millennials who grew up with cool parents, there are a few still operating to enjoy.

According to T.J. Jaeger (ARTS@NUVO.NET), after WWII, America had a ‘new’ generation of teenagers: One who had easy access to cars. The movie and the car boom were partly responsible for the invention of drive-in theaters across the country. Beginning on the east coast, drive-ins have change as have the movies and the film.

There are some 322 classic drive-in movie theaters open for business across America. In Nashville, TN, the opening soon August Moon Drive-In will be a 40,000-square-foot indoor space. Moviegoers will feel like they are watching a film outdoors with August Moon’s simulated starry sky and gigantic screen.

If the Drive-In is to survive, it’s competing today against the ready availability of movies, Netflix, and Hulu. Red Box and public libraries also offer access to feature films. But we don’t see that as competition. Going to a drive-in is, after all, so much more than watching a movie. A unique experience.

What’s better than sitting in the privacy of your own vehicle, watching a movie under the stars, and eating concession hotdogs and popcorn. Why, it is an ‘experience,’ after all. And for many baby-boomers, it brings back fond memories; nostalgia of days gone by.

According to the experts, there a few gems to keep in mind when frequenting a Drive-In:

*Although most movies start around 9:00 p.m., coming in plenty of time is expected. Arrive early-for several reasons: to get a good parking spot, allow time for mingling, bonding and getting the most out of the drive-in experience.
*Some people do bring their own food, but in all fairness to the proprietor, at least buy a coke or popcorn from the food stand. Concessions are the main source of income for Drive-ins, although often overpriced.
*Don’t forget the bug spray!
*Weather can be unpredictable. Bring a blanket, light jacket. Be prepared for the occasional summer storm.
*Drive-In masters give great thought to the Drive-In ‘vehicle of choice.’

A large vehicle with a reliable battery is strongly encouraged. If it’s a double-feature, start your car between the two movies. Don’t leave your car’s lights on or the battery on AC.

Jaeger lists 18 drive-in movies in our neighboring state of Indiana. If you’re up for a road trip, here is a list of those drive-ins still operating:

*49er Drive-In, Valparaiso (open every night), serves Orville Redenbacher’s popcorn!
*Lake Shore Drive-In, Monticello (open every night). Built in 1948.
*M.E.L.S. at the Starlite Drive-In, Thorntown (open Friday, Saturday).
*Tibbs Drive-In, Indianapolis (closed Tuesdays). Last remaining drive-in in Indy.
*Centerbrook Drive-In Martinsville (closed Monday, Tuesday).
*Cinema 67, Spencer (open Friday-Sunday). Concession stand has varied menu.
*Starlite Drive-In, Bloomington (open Friday-Sunday). Uses original screen, stand since 1955.
*Holiday Drive-In, Mitchell (open Thursday-Sunday). Occasional camping nights.
*Holiday Drive-In, Rockport (open every night). Six screens.
*Auburn-Garrett, Garrett (open every night). Renovated in the 1970s.
*Huntington Twin Drive-In, Huntington (open Thursday-Sunday).
*19-24 Drive-In, Wabash (open Thursday-Saturday). Can accommodate 500 cars!
*Skyline Drive-In, Shelbyville (open Thursday-Sunday). Hosts Drive-In Sanity where they screen a third retro film late Saturday nights on 35 mm film.
*Bel-Air Drive-In, Versailles (open Friday-Sunday). Sundays are $30 carload nights.
*Georgetown Drive-In, Georgetown (open every night).
Drive-In Fun Facts:
*Film reels were massive, totaling about 15,000 feet on average
*Films used to be shown on projectors, with thousands of individual still images speeding past a reflector, light bulb and lens. They are now digital.

*Benefits of going digital include: A cleaner, crisper image, easier operation, film is stored on hard drive which takes up less space (cheaper for smaller theaters)-drive-ins can afford digital versions rather than film versions.

At the highlight of the Drive-In boom, Illinois boasted more than 120 facilities; unofficially, only about12 remain. While just a few are still standing, it’s uncertain whether/not they will be revived.

*Hi-Lite, Aurora on Montgomery & Hill Rd. (April-Oct., Weekends, Spring/Fall, 7nites, summer. The oldest remaining Drive-in in Illinois include:
*Skyview, Belleville

*Skyview, Litchfield (April-Oct.), 1950
*Galva AutoVue Drive-In, Galva. 5.3-acre site, twin screen. Holds up to 250 cars.
*Harvest Moon, Gibson City (April-Sept-weekends.; June-July 6 nites). Twin screens.
*Route 66 Drive-In, Springfield
*Clark 54 Twin Pike, Summer Hill
*Cascade Drive-In, West Chicago (Apr.-Oct.)
*Cicero Twin Drive-In, Monee. Two screens, double feature
*Fairview, Newton, 220 miles south of Chicago (April-Sept.), double feature.
*Midway Drive-In, Dixon, 10 min. north of 88.
*34 Drive-In, Earlville

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