Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Golden Age Of The Drive-In Theater

One of the things I'm glad I was able to experience growing up was the classic drive-in movie theater. The Binghamton, New York area at one time had four such theaters, but lost two of them to highway construction. So, by the time I was a child, there were two to choose from.

The two were very different. The V Drive-In had a screen so large that you drove in under it. It was located on the Vestal Parkway, in an urban area. The Airport Drive-In had a small screen and was located in a rural area near our local airport.

I always preferred the V for a few reasons. The food was better. The sound system was better. It just was, overall, a nicer experience.

Also, I saw more movies and better movies at the V. I saw "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" at the V. I saw "Star Wars" at the V. The Airport Drive In tended to feature lesser films, with a few exceptions. 

Going to a really good drive-in was fun. Rolling down a car window to attach a speaker. Waiting for it to get dark enough for the movie to start. Watching the intermission reel with its countdown to the second film, each minute seeming to fly by. It all just added up to a really fun time.

The drive-in has made something of a comeback over the past decade or so, but it's not quite the same. There is one classic theater within driving distance of where I live, and every summer I try to get there at least once, but that hasn't happened in the last few years.

The V closed in the 1990s when its owner sold the land to a developer who built a large shopping plaza. The Airport closed not much longer after the V did simply because it was losing a lot of money. The person who managed the V its last year did an amazing job with it. He held some really creative promotions and had the place packed almost every night of the week. I know that because I went several times with my dad that summer.

There are a few DVDs that attempt to recreate the experience. I'm thinking of buying one that has good reviews on Amazon. If I do, I'll report back on how good or bad it winds up being.

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