Wednesday, August 25, 2010

At The Drive-In

I'm not usually one of those back-in-the-good-old-days people, but I have to say, I'm sad for the future generations who will never know the old-fashioned fun of a drive-in movie theater. There's something nice about movies in general - the dark room, the big screen, the surround sound, the promise that you will probably be entertained, possibly wildly - and to marry that with hanging out in your car and eating popcorn with your dog is a genius idea.

I've been lucky enough to summer near a drive-in movie theater, so over the years I've seen a number of movies al fresco. I saw Wall-E with an ex-boyfriend, and we couldn't figure out how to turn the headlights in the new car off for, like, half an hour, committing one of those head-shaking drive-in bonehead moves that annoys everyone else at the show. I saw Grind as part of an end-of-summer staff party, leading to a host of quotes shouted at each other over the deep fryers. I saw Armageddon during a church youth group outing, where all the girls cried and all the boys make explosion noises with their mouths during the action sequences. It's one of the places I identify strongly with the cottage, and the cottage, to me, equals youth and freedom, nature and beauty, something just a little outside the ordinary. In our civilian lives, we go to the movies; at the cottage, we go to the drive-in.

Drive-in movie theaters used to be part of the entertainment landscape. Invented in 1933 by an American named Richard Hollingshead, the drive-in morphed from a curiosity with cars on blocks, to a full-fledged market for hormonal teens. An entire movie genre was created for drive-in theaters. Unsurprisingly, not very many of these movies are any good: kung-fu flicks, Blaxplotiation movies, beach-monster reels, crime capers, and more. Think of Tarantino's source material and you've got a pretty good understanding of what was being shown in all that fresh air. But the theaters fell from favour as people wanted to watch their big blockbusters indoors, and drive-ins all over North America closed.

I have no idea how the one near my cottage survived, but I'm glad it did. In addition to playing first- and second-run movies, this theater also occasionally indulges my fetish for goofy animations and retro aesthetics by playing a snack-bar jingle, one that highlights this venue's allegedly terrific nachos. Since the theater is run by white folks and the nacho "cheese" is that plasticky yellow goop that's served hot and salty, I kind of doubt it, but I like anything with anthropomorphized food, so, really, everybody wins.

Most of the time, I relish the idea of living my life car-free. I'm a cyclist, I've been one for years. But it makes me sad to think that my future kids may not get the pleasure of getting ready for a night at the drive-in: packing a bag of snacks and drinks, putting on their pajamas, grabbing a blanket to stay warm, and, just as the sky darkens, heading out to see a movie.

1 comment:

  1. There was also the evening when we saw the memorable double-bill of Dodgeball and The Day After Tomorrow; it was awkward for me because it was one of the first (perhaps the only??) times that I ever hung out with both you and my friend Alexandra at the same time and she, inexplicably, was having a day where she Didn't Like anybody New. I still don't understand that one; I adore both of you, you should therefore at least sort-of-like each other. Whatever. As I recall, we packed an entire meal and the utensils with which to eat it (it included both mangoes and avocados in their respective uncut forms), and both movies were badbadbad.

    Incidentally, speaking of movies that inspired hosts of quotes shouted at each other over the deep-fryers, I recently saw part of Anchorman again. I had long suspected that it was actually only funny THAT DAY and that it would never be funny again, and... I was right. Deb and Laura were horrified that I'd ever enjoyed it, and we didn't even finish watching it. BUT, all the lines that I remember shouting at you through the rest of that summer were STILL FUNNY. Pretty much every single one of them.