Are Drive-in Movies a Thing of the Past?

old-drive-in-movie

Old drive-in  Peachtree NC

Sometimes the college I work at has free movie nights for students and the community at large. I usually work them. A few weeks back we had one. We typically show the movie outdoors on a big screen unless the weather decides not to cooperate with us. Our recent movie night was perfect weather. No rain and it was very warm for a February night. Yet we didn’t have a great turn out.

As we stood around wondering about the lack of interest I said “It looks like folks would think this would be fun.” One of my co-workers agreed but then said “Maybe that’s the problem, we think it would be fun, but we’re a lot older than the people we’re asking to come.” I said I guessed maybe she was right.

Ironically, there used to be a drive in theater just across the road from where we were showing our film. That drive-in used to be packed on the weekends, especially on Sunday nights when I was teenager.

Since the drive-in was on the way to town from our house I drove by it my entire life. It was enclosed by a high fence all the way around. I’d often wonder what it was like on the inside as I rode by in the back of Pap and Granny’s car. I also wondered if anyone ever hid in the trunk and snuck in like they did on tv. I was a teenager before I finally saw the inside of it.

As I said the drive-in was the place to be on Sunday nights. There wasn’t much movie watching, there was lots of standing around talking and sometimes a little meanness. I’m ashamed to say among all the times I went to the drive in I can only remember seeing one movie, Arachnophobia. The only reason I remember that movie was I went with Paul and our cousin, Maria, during the middle of the week, not on Sunday night.

What I do remember is standing around talking, laughing, seeing who was there and being seen. The usual silly teenage stuff. I do have one extra special memory that will forever exist somewhere in that now empty exposed field. A memory of an older brother who cared enough to send word to me that I was hanging with the wrong crowd of people and I better remove myself or he would. I can still feel myself standing there trying to act like I didn’t care, but knowing he was right and I should know better.

Any drive-in-movies left where you live?

Tipper

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36 Comments

  • Reply
    Quinn
    March 8, 2018 at 9:18 am

    Tipper, that part about your brother brought tears to my eyes. I grew up with four big brothers, one of whom was kind-natured and cared about others, including his little sister. I was so lucky to have him. He passed away from cancer when he was only 33 and I was 31. It’s a rare day I don’t think of him in some way.

  • Reply
    Leon Estes
    March 4, 2018 at 10:57 pm

    There might be one on the Northwest side of Fayetteville, Arkansas. It is off of St HWY 112.

    I have a good memory of going to a drive-in during my College years. I went with my friend Ron when he went to western Arkansas to see his girlfriend – – whom he later married. We double-dated with her friend – – Patty! It was a racing movie: “Red Line 7000”. Ah! wonderful memory!

  • Reply
    Kim Campbell
    March 4, 2018 at 6:45 pm

    We still ahve one here in Osawatomie Kansas!

    • Reply
      Leon Estes
      March 4, 2018 at 10:58 pm

      Good for you folks out there! Enjoy it as long as you can!

  • Reply
    jumpoffa
    March 3, 2018 at 8:31 pm

    The only drive-in we have in Southern California is now a swap meet. They tore out the microphones and poles that held them. The movie screen is still there; but, it is falling apart a little each year. The drive-in has been around for more than forty years and I believe that last movie shown was in the late 70’s. It is very sad to think that an American icon passing into the pages of history much like a kiss from a young girl, for the very first time.

  • Reply
    Ruth Binder, Broadview Heights, OH
    March 3, 2018 at 6:59 pm

    Just want to leave a Thank You to Vann Helms for his beautiful photography. You could easily spend a couple of hours watching. Appreciate his hard work and talent………..

  • Reply
    Tamela
    March 3, 2018 at 4:25 pm

    Once again, you stirred up lots of memories.
    As a child, each Sunday, I remember the teenagers at church talking who they’d seen, what they were wearing, what car they were in, who was making out with whom the previous night.- They made it sound so cool to be “grown up”.
    A body could see the screen at that Cactus Drive-in from my grandmothers porch a mile away. When my sister and I spent the night with her we’d snuggle up on the divan on the screened in porch and watch the movies while making up our own dialogue. “We” really meant just my grandmother and I because my sister (3 years younger) would usually fall asleep right away and my grandfather wouldn’t waste his time on such foolishness.
    I only remember going to one twice: The first time we went to see Bambi. Mom popped popcorn and fixed Dad’s work thermos with ice water; sister and I were in pajamas; and sister and I rode to the theater on a pile of blankets and pillows so they wouldn’t blow out from the back of the pick-up as we drove to town. Dad would park the truck so the angle was right for viewing the movie from the back of the pick-up and attach the speaker to the side; then arranged blankets and pillows and we settled in for a good movie – little did I know what a sad movie it was and I cried for days because Bambi’s mother died!
    There was a playground beneath the screen – supposedly so that parents could enjoy the movie from their car and still keep an eye on their kids, but my parents didn’t let us go there.
    When they took us to the bathroom, Dad saw the prices for snacks and just about blew a gasket!! He thought the price of tickets was highway robbery but the price of snacks were worse still.
    Even so, we did go a second time: we saw “Tammy and the Bachelor” – although my nickname is “Tami”, after that I spelled it “Tammy” until I won first chair in the regional band competition and they spelled it “Tommy” because they didn’t think a girl could place so high on a saxophone ~! I went back to “Tami” also because my mother asked me to but the previous mentioned incident was the final “oomph” to change back to “Tami”. I still love the theme song and thought Debbie Reynolds was wonderful. My sister (also “Debby” thought about changing her spelling to “Debbie” but that meant one more letter to write and when you are just learning to write, adding another letter meant taking too much time to write your name.
    By the time I was in high school, the “good kids” didn’t go to the drive-in. It had become a place where knife fights took place and a lot of out of control drinking went on.
    Both in Dallas and in central Texas, the parks often show movies in the Park during the summer and my kids take their kids to these free family events. The girls love the movies, love seeing their friends there, and enjoy blanket hopping to see what snacks the other families brought. That may be the closest any of them get to seeing a “drive-in” movie.

  • Reply
    Don Byers
    March 3, 2018 at 3:31 pm

    Drive-In at Blue Ridge was still in operation a short time ago..I think it still is..

    • Reply
      SuzyJ
      March 5, 2018 at 2:21 pm

      Yes Don it is alive and well!

  • Reply
    Sallie
    March 3, 2018 at 2:45 pm

    There’s a drive-in inElizabethton, TN which operates April thu September/October. It’s The Stateline Drive-In due to being close to the
    TN/NC border

  • Reply
    Jackie
    March 3, 2018 at 1:52 pm

    I went to the drive-in many times but rarely saw the movie. I was too busy with my date. Dad offered to take my sister and me once and stopped to get my girlfriend. Four of us in a pickup and I saw most of that one. Being with dad and sister cramped my “style”.

  • Reply
    Jim Keller
    March 3, 2018 at 1:42 pm

    Tipper,
    We are lucky enough to still have a drive in. Actually it is opening for this season next weekend.Most everyone in the community has a few good memories from this landmark.
    http://www.statelinedrivein.com/page2.html

  • Reply
    PinnacleCreek
    March 3, 2018 at 1:05 pm

    We still have a drive in not far from where I live. A few years ago my sister and I decided to take the grandchildren so they could enjoy as we once did. It was a terrible decision! We could not find a speaker that worked and had to run sound through the car radio best I remember. I was concerned about battery life because I never chance a dead battery, and that is just me probably. The boys continuously wrestled in the back and paid very little attention. They almost broke us with price of snacks. We finally left and never even watched the double feature. What happened to the good ole days when we could load up and go to a drive in movie in the summer? My memory was of good movies, quiet children, and the ability to get out of the house for a pleasant outing. Has life changed that much?

  • Reply
    BARBARA GANTT
    March 3, 2018 at 12:44 pm

    There is a drive in about 10 miles from us. It is only open on weekends and is always packed. They open Memorial Day weekend. Close on Labor Day. They do an all night movies for Labor Day weekend. They nearly closed a few years ago when the movie format changed. They did a big fund raiser to get a new modern projector. People gave money as they wanted it to stay open.

  • Reply
    Ken
    March 3, 2018 at 12:12 pm

    Tipper,
    We still have a Theater in Andrews, but they have the saltiest popcorn in the world. I suppose it’s too salty, to make you drink more dopes. The Henn Drive-In use to be where Ray White’s Plaza is now. I have jumped over the banks, with a bunch of boys, several times and waded down the side of Valley River at dark and go inside the place to see Tarzan. We’d pick up lots of papers and build us a small fire to dry off, and find a place where no one was close-by, so we could use the speakers.

    Every small town had a Drive-In and some had Theaters to go in and sit down. I remember one of the first times I went to Andrews Theater was to see The Ten Commandments with Charleston Heston. That’s still my favorite Movie. …Ken

  • Reply
    Vann Helms
    March 3, 2018 at 12:00 pm

    Just in case you might want to see pics of The Swan in Blue Ridge, Georgia, here is their website. I went thirty-five years ago, and it was sooo cool. http://www.swan-drive-in.com/now-showing.php

  • Reply
    Papaw
    March 3, 2018 at 11:09 am

    The Sunset Drive-In in Shelby is still operating. https://www.sunsetdriveintheatre.com/ It only operates in the summer months. That’s the closest to here. Hickory used to have 3 drive-ins. The Hickory Drive-in was out near #70. There were two drive-ins almost side by side down on Springs Road. One was the Thunderbird. I forget the name of the other one but I do remember it had XXXs on both sides of the name. It had a fence twice as high as the other one. They are all closed now.
    According to Google there are only five Drive-Ins left in operation in North Carolina.

  • Reply
    harry adams
    March 3, 2018 at 10:49 am

    I think Doug meant Monetta, SC. Look up BigMo.com

  • Reply
    harry adams
    March 3, 2018 at 10:45 am

    I have fond memories of the drive in in Greenwood, SC and Anderson,SC, but I don’t recall much about the movies that were shown. I think the Hwy 25 is still operating in Greenwood. http://www.25drivein.com

  • Reply
    Doug Flack
    March 3, 2018 at 10:26 am

    There is a drive-in in Marietta, SC, just outside of Lexington, SC. It is owned and operated by 2 USC professors that live across the street from my ex-wife in Lexington. It is open from April through September. It has been open for quite a number of years. They typically show first run features.

  • Reply
    kay dallas
    March 3, 2018 at 10:14 am

    Never been in the trunk. I was not a rule breaker lol. So boring but I used to be a scaredy cat so. Many times, best and cheapest entertainment. Car load $1.00. Taking my grandkids very soon to one of the last ones here in central GA. A memory to be made. Trying to keep the old ways.

  • Reply
    Lee Mears
    March 3, 2018 at 9:22 am

    We used to go in Canton with our parents and were dressed in our pajamas. I don’t remember it ever being too hot or too cold either????
    It was really a treat. Now there’s Netflix right from my sofa or bed and the grandsons watch movies on their phones and their other ‘machines’.
    I wouldn’t have thought these mentioned here still exist. The good old days.

  • Reply
    Shirl
    March 3, 2018 at 9:10 am

    There was one in my hometown where all the kids hung out. I don’t think much movie-watching went on, but it was definitely the place to be on Saturday night. The older kids used to come to school and brag about being one step ahead of the man who walked around and shined his flashlight in the cars with teenagers. I got to go one time, so drive-in movies don’t hold fond memories for me. My neighbor and I used to load up our kids and take them to a drive-in up in Louisville. My grandkids saw a movie at a drive-in south of here last summer. They were so excited. I’m sure it was not as thrilling as it was when it cost a dollar and was the only entertainment in town.

  • Reply
    Dee Parks
    March 3, 2018 at 8:58 am

    Oh my goodness, I certainly remember them when I was a teen growing up about 45 miles North of Chicago. I grew up in a beautiful little town and if we went to the movie theater we walked a couple blocks. We had a drive-in located near a town South of us but I never did go to that one. We didn’t live that far from the Wisconsin border and Kenosha, Wisconsin had a really nice drive-in. Now we live in south central Pennsylvania and actually have one right down the road from us that is still operating. They were going to close it down about two years ago and the people in the area let them know they wanted it here. Every summer it is packed full on the weekends. The whole family goes and they bring chairs and sit by their cars/trucks with their coolers. You will see the kids playing Frisbee or just sitting around talking til the movie starts. Harr’s Drive-in sits right by a major route 15 and has a shopping complex across the road one way and some apartments across another road with it sitting almost in a triangle. At one time, this was all corn fields. I was only there one time about 40 some years ago to take the kids to see Evil Knievel, the guy that rode motorcycles and jumped canyons and such. We still laugh about it. It was the second movie and by that time our little boys had fallen asleep, we could not get them to wake up to see the movie so we just went home.

  • Reply
    Patricia M Poss
    March 3, 2018 at 8:48 am

    We still have our drive-in. 5 minutes from my house. Check them out on fb- Tiger Drive In Theatre, Tiger, GA. Beautiful Rabun County

  • Reply
    Sheryl PaulI
    March 3, 2018 at 8:47 am

    Ours closed when I was still in high school, the screen still stands though. We alwsys hoped someone would take a chance and open it back up. It is gone along with drive in diners. Maybe it is the price of gas. I remember when I first got my driving license going from one to the next to see where our friends were.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    March 3, 2018 at 8:41 am

    I found it ! It is the Parkway Drive In on Lamar Alexander Parkway near Maryville, TN. The website is
    http://www.parkwaydrivein.com.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    March 3, 2018 at 8:37 am

    When I was in high school 1968-71 there was one in the next county to the north. Went there a few times. First date with my wife of 44 years was to that drive in. It closed about the early 80’s and is now a flea market.

    Not so very long ago I was surprised to see a drive in that was obviously still in business. But I forget where it was. If I tried to ‘remember’ I would be making it up. Seems like some town somewhere would have a 50’s Festival featuring a drive in ?

  • Reply
    Susan Landis
    March 3, 2018 at 8:34 am

    I go to the one in Blue Ridge, GA whenever they are showing something I want to see. I still prefer them and go where ever I might be. There’s a pretty new one in Trenton, GA that has two screens. I lived in a small town in Arizona as a kid and that was about the best entertainment we had in the desert. The last one I went to was about 3 weeks ago during that warm spell in Blue Ridge to see The Post.

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    March 3, 2018 at 8:26 am

    The Swan Drive-In in Blue Ridge Ga is still operating and has been since 1957 or 58.
    I grew up in Ellijay so the 16 mile trek was an easy one for lots of families and teenagers.
    I spent many weekend nights there either with buddies or on dates and yes, I have snuck in in the trunk of a car too just to see if we could get away with it. We still make it up there about once or twice a year and it’s still fun. No more speakers that hang on the window or food trays either. Now you tune your radio in to their station and you have great sound but to me the little speaker box was much cooler. My friend forgot to take the speaker off the window one night and when he pulled off he left his window there in pieces. I hope they can continue to stick around but I’m sure it is more difficult each year.
    So if you want to expierence a true drive in movie or take the kids or g-kids I would recommend the Swan. If you get there early and park up front you can sit on the grass and the kiddos can spread out on blankets.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    March 3, 2018 at 8:11 am

    we had at least four in our area of Pennsylvania. They were the place to be on weekends. The one I remember most had a small hill in the back. We would try to get there early so we could put our
    blankets down and enjoy the summer breezes as we watched the movie.
    There is a mall there now. Thanks for the memories.

  • Reply
    Ann
    March 3, 2018 at 8:08 am

    Here in Roswell, the drive-in movie had “Buck-A-Car Night” once a week, and it was packed with families. Many folks took a picnic supper to enjoy while watching the movie. Little kids could fall asleep in the back seat of the car while their parents peacefully enjoyed the show. Surely an evening at home watching TV isn’t nearly as much fun, but that’s exactly what killed the drive-in movies.

  • Reply
    Ed Karshner
    March 3, 2018 at 8:02 am

    Up here, we still have one in Northridgeville right off the Ohio Turnpike. I have never been there. When I was kid, there was one in Chillicothe, Ohio. I went to that one with my parents. There would be a kid’s movie, first. Then, I would fall asleep in the back of the Dodge Demon about the time the 70s era biker/kung fu movie started.

    When I was a teenager, we had one in Circleville out by the fair grounds. That was the last time I went to one. I saw Raw Deal.

    They are all gone down home. Last Christmas my sister-in-law got me a Fiesta Drive-In t-shirt from a shop that sells Chilicothe nostalgia. I about cried.

  • Reply
    Cindy Pressley
    March 3, 2018 at 7:57 am

    There was a drive in movie up above Canton, one in Waynesville and one Candler, also one or two in Asheville. I don’t remember kids hanging out just folks going to see the movies. Of course they are all long gone now. There aren’t even as many indoor theaters now, guess folks watch movies on TV.

  • Reply
    William Dotson
    March 3, 2018 at 7:04 am

    There used to be 2 drive-ins around here with two indoor theaters there was the Riverside Drive-in in Aberdeen, Ohio, I ran the projectors there during the winter months then I would run the projectors at the Park Drive-in outside of Maysville, Ky during the summer months, I did this a few years then I managed the Park for a few years before they closed them plus I would sub running the projectors at they Russell Theater in downtown Maysville, Iliked this job but it was a hot job in the summer without air conditioning.

  • Reply
    Tmc
    March 3, 2018 at 6:33 am

    Sad to say but No, the last one was closed down probable 45 yrs ago, I can barely remember going with Daddy and Mamma as a child and I remember one of our neighbors Girls had her license and wanted to take us kids, I cannot remember what the movie was about either, probable an Elvis movie, that family was Elvis crazy. Actually there use to be three different ones, Moulton had one and Decatur had two

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