©2019 Bill Wood.
Welcome to my blog, where I’ll mostly ramble on about some of my favorite things. It could be an unsung rock band, a defunct pro wrestling promotion, or anything else that comes to mind. Enjoy!
DRIVE-IN MOVIE THEATRES ARE STILL THE BEST MOVIE THEATRES
When I mention the classic drive-in theatre experience to my friends, I usually get one of two responses; a fond smile or a blank stare. I have found that this response directly correlates to the age of the person I’m conversing with. If you’re the type that gets all googly-eyed at the mention of drive-ins, congratulations! You’re in the Cool Kids Club! But seriously, how awesome are drive-in theatres? They are 100% pure Americana, monuments to the heyday of motion picture entertainment. It’s where the local kids would congregate every weekend to bring their date and watch whatever cheesy monster flick was showing. If you didn't have the two bucks to get in, you were usually the guy hiding in the trunk.
Some of my fondest childhood memories were formed at Sacramento’s Star-Lite drive-in, just off of Arden Way. Mom would make hot dogs at home, wrap them in tin foil, then heat them up on the engine when we got to the theatre. It was where I first sampled pizza, popcorn, and any combination of candy, junk food and soda pop. For a kid living out in the sticks, the drive-in was my Disneyland, there was nothing better than kicking back with friends and family and watching a thoroughly forgettable flick beneath the summer stars.
I don’t recall many of the drive-in movies I saw as a wee lad, most have faded with age. However, I do recall seeing Ralph Bakshi’s X-rated animated feature Fritz The Cat at the Star-Lite. To this day I wonder if my parents thought we’d be watching another Bugs Bunny cartoon that night. In addition to the Star-Lite, we also had the 49er in Del Paso Heights, the Skyview in Southgate, the Sunrise in Citrus Heights, and the Thunderbird and Sacramento 6 In Rancho Cordova, the latter of which—when last I checked—is still alive and well. I’m sure there were even more drive-in theaters in the area, they were all over the place back then.
If the movie themselves were often forgettable, the commercials definitely were not. Who can forget the classic drive-in ads with the animated dancing snacks? Even if you've never been to the drive-in, I'll bet you know what some of these look like. These commercials are out there on YouTube these days, easy enough to find. Just make sure you eat before watching, most of the food they show will make your stomach turn! It all looked so delicious back then, guess you had to be there.
I’m willing to bet everyone over a certain age has at least one unforgettable drive-in experience. Mine was in my senior year of high school, I went to the theatre still aching over a girl who had broken up with me earlier that week. The feature attraction was a then-unknown low-budget horror film called The Evil Dead, which was playing at the drive-in on its first day of release. By the time was movie was over, the heartache was over and I had a new obsession! Me and my buddies went back the next night, then the week after that. We probably ended up watching The Evil Dead at the drive-in more than anyone not directly involved with the film! It's still one of my all-time favorites.
Most drive-in theatres are long gone, either due to the rising costs of maintenance (this is where you’ll usually find your local swap meet) or because the property is too damned valuable to be showing slasher flicks to an ever-dwindling audience (this is where you’ll usually find your shiny new condos). Thankfully there are a few that still remain. In fact, the missus and I have attended quite a few drive-ins in recent years, including the West Wind in Glendale, AZ and the Rodeo in Bremerton, WA. The Rodeo in particular is a fantastic experience, with its massive outdoor screens framed by the majestic Pacific Northwest forest. All-digital with HD presentation, they even rent small radios so that you don't accidentally drain your car battery.
If all of this has you hankering for a trip to the drive-in but nowhere to go locally, it’s easy enough to stage your own home-brew drive-in experience with a few patio chairs and a laptop. (You could splurge for a nice projector and screen to enhance the experience, but a laptop just works fine if you’re okay with the smaller screen.) Fire up some popcorn and stream a few vintage drive-in commercials off of the intertubes for a few minutes, then it’s off to the main attraction!
And what movies go best with a drive-in movie night? Well, this obviously depends on your taste, but you really can’t go wrong with old-school horror, black-and-white if possible! There are many public domain movies that legally can be streamed for free from a variety of sources. Number One on my personal list is Herk Harvey’s 1962 classic Carnival Of Souls, a stylish and unsettling film that was once rated “the best drive-in movie of all-time.” Number Two would be George Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead, which you may have seen once or twice already. If you want some laughs to go with the horror, check out Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space. Can’t decide which movie to watch? No problem, most drive-in were double features anyway! Whatever your movie choice, recreating the drive-in experience is always a blast.
- BW 1/8/19