Can an activity that peaked in popularity 70 years ago connect us to one another now in the modern pandemic age? All across the world, people are rediscovering the magic of sitting in a car, turning up the dial on their stereo, and watching lights dance across a large screen. While drive-in theaters aren’t new, they serve as a beacon of nostalgia and hope for us in a time where we all need something to celebrate! Park yourself somewhere comfy and grab some snacks—we’re going to the movies, COVID-style!
At this moment in history, many of us are spending a lot of time at home, yearning to be social. And then, almost immediately, we are smacked with the reminder that “Oh yeah, I’m really not supposed to be out people-ing right now. Dang!” Well, what if we told you there is a way you can enjoy a shared community experience, safely, and it’s outside the walls of your home? Read on, dear friend, for you don’t even need to venture far off somewhere over the rainbow for this experience. Welcome back to the drive-in!
What is old is now new again
Drive-in theaters debuted in the 1930s, and became the happening spot during the teenage wave of the 1950s. These open-air picture shows offered more flexibility than indoor theaters, and they remained a popular form of date night entertainment and family outings for decades! 1 Eventually, through the 1990s and onward, drive-ins started to disappear across American landscapes due to changing technology and increased property values.
But, there is one thing about drive-ins that hasn’t changed over the years: the simple joy that comes with snuggling up in the back of an old station wagon and letting Hollywood dazzle us with classic movies.
There’s something timeless and unchanging about the drive-in experience.
For me, it’s the memories. I remember spotting my first shooting star during an outdoor showing of “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” with my favorite aunt. I bet there are at least a handful of readers viewing this article who remember cramming as many people as possible into one vehicle to catch a glimpse of the newest summer blockbuster!
Maybe it’s the buttery smell of fresh popcorn or the fact that you have the power to control the volume… but there’s a memorable, comforting feeling about parking your car in just the right spot and being able to view a moving picture simultaneously with, yet separately from, the family parked next to you.
The comforting feeling that drive-ins offer has recently evolved from a nostalgic snuggly-blanket vibe to a slightly different type of “safe” feeling. These days, when we need to be mindful of how close we are standing next to each other, drive-ins are offering people the ability to enjoy spending time outside of their hobbit holes in a safe, somewhat controlled, socially distant environment!
A shared experience, but not too social.
All around the globe, people are embracing drive-ins in new and super cool ways! Whether it’s on the roof of a parking garage, floating on an inner tube in the ocean watching “Jaws” (I’ll pass on that one, by the way), or hosting a film festival in a classic open field, folks of all ages are rediscovering the wonder of watching a movie underneath the stars.
This lovely segment by the AWE-some folks at CBS Sunday Morning drives us to take a closer look at this new wave of open-theater trends.
A flashback for the ages
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many of us to reevaluate what brings us joy, and how we can share it with others. Slowing down to enjoy something simple like watching a movie with loved ones can really make you appreciate the past, as well as the moment right in front of you.
Our grandparents likely spent some time at drive-ins in their heyday; I betcha there are some great stories there! Drive-ins have spanned multiple generations’ worth of good times, and now, with their recent resurgence, we can extend that warm, fuzzy feeling well beyond their expected expiration!
Resilience hasn’t taken the back seat.
When you’re feeling down about the current state of the world, let this small example of human resilience give you hope that humankind will always overcome tough times together, even if we’re parked 6 feet apart!
If you like the cinema and enjoy stories about how we’ve learned from the past to create a better future, nestle in with these articles!
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Keep dreaming and notice the beauty around you!
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- Reid, Robin T. “The History of the Drive-In Movie Theater.” Smithsonian Magazine, Smithsonian Magazine, 28 May 2008, www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/the-history-of-the-drive-in-movie-theater-51331221/. Accessed 14 Oct. 2020. ↩
- CBS Sunday Morning. “Now Showing: The Return of the Drive-In.” YouTube, 30 Aug. 2020, www.youtube.com/watch?v=zG8Dlne1jUc&feature=emb_title. Accessed 14 Oct. 2020. ↩