Car culture isn’t all about just replacing your BMW 325i parts or safety features; there’s a societal aspect as well. Therein is the phenomenon of the drive-in movie. The 1950s and 1960s were the heyday of the drive-in movie. Going to a drive-in was just as much about socializing as it was about seeing a movie. Friends went to hang out, couples went to enjoy one another and families went as an inexpensive and fun night of entertainment. It was car culture at its finest.
Unfortunately, somewhere around the 1980s, multiplexes took over and drive-ins dwindled nearly to extinction. However, recently drive-in movie theaters have been experiencing a resurgence in popularity. Families looking for different and less expensive ways to entertain the gang have been heading out to their local drive-ins. Drive-ins and cars go hand-in-hand. But what are the best types of cars to take to the drive-in? That depends!
What to Drive to the Drive-In
Not all drive-ins are created equal. Some drive-ins have a gigantic screen with the sound broadcast over an FM channel, along with a fully-stocked concession stand. Other drive-ins aren’t much more than a white sheet hung up in someone’s back yard. Different rules and circumstances dictate what vehicle is best to bring. Here are some loose guidelines:
- Pickup Trucks – Pickups, or anything with a tailgate, are a good bet. You can park with the back facing the movie screen and have plenty of space to kick back and relax, eat snacks and watch the movie. Be sure to have plenty of pillows or soft padding to make things comfortable. There’s nothing like the feel of cold, hard, corrugated metal to make watching a drive-in movie thoroughly uncomfortable.
- SUVs – SUVs are good for hauling all your friends, your cooler full of snacks and drinks, and possibly even folding chairs if the drive-in allows you to sit outside your car (some drive-ins do while others do not – be sure to check ahead of time). One caveat: If you do arrive at the drive-in with a huge vehicle, have some consideration for your fellow moviegoers and park toward the back of the lot to avoid obstructing the view. Don’t be the vehicular equivalent of the guy wearing the tall hat or the girl with the big hair at the movie theater.
- 1949 Ford Woody – A great view out the front and room for a full mattress in the back… what could be finer? Surfer style at the drive-in simply can’t be beat. Neither can the cool or the nostalgia factor.
- Anything Else – Don’t have a Woody? That’s okay. Any other car will do, but keep in mind that unless you’re planning on sitting outside of the car to watch the movie, you’re going to be sitting in your car for the next two hours (or more, if staying for the double feature). If you’re taking more than just yourself and one guest to the movies, be sure your passengers in the back will have a clear view of the screen and plenty of leg room. Otherwise, the whole experience isn’t going to be much fun.
Because a drive-in is more like one big party on a summer night than anything else, it’s unrealistic to expect everyone to stay quiet and just watch the show. That’s perfectly okay; it’s also not realistic to expect crisp picture quality or digital sound. The movie isn’t really the point, the overall experience is. Having said that, there are still a few things you ought to do to ensure a good time for everyone.
- Don’t leave your engine running the whole time. Summer nights can be hot, but no one else wants to breathe your exhaust so you can have your air conditioning on.
- If you leave early, don’t turn on your headlights. There will be enough light for you to find your way out. There’s no need to blind everyone. If you’re leaving when the movie is over, make life easier for yourself by simply waiting for traffic to clear rather than trying to fight your way out with everyone else.
- Help keep drive-in theaters alive. Even if you do bring your own snacks, be sure to buy at least one item from the concession stand, since concessions make up a big part of a theater’s income.
When considering what to do on those sultry summer nights, don’t forget the drive-in!
About the Author: Sandy Page loves everything about cars. As a proud BMW owner, she scours the market on a quest for 3 series parts and accessories.