Things we miss and don’t miss about the drive-in theater
At one time there were over 4,000 drive-in theaters in America!
In today’s day and age there are new norms when it comes to watching a movie. You can quite literally kick back, and with a click of a button or two, watch your favorite movie in your living room. As we know, it hasn’t always been that way. Not that long ago, there was no such thing as a streaming service.
Even before movie rental agencies such as Blockbuster and Hollywood Video became popular, there was really only one way to see a new movie while it was still new: Go to a movie theater. While everyone has gone to the theater, there are some who have never been to the drive-in. Just saying the phrase brings on the nostalgia. Often, it was a great change of pace from the regular theater.
Watching movies has gotten so easy over the years, thus driving the nation-wide decline in drive-in theaters. There are about 300 drive-ins still in the United States today, compared to the over 4,000 in the ‘50s and ‘60s! Whether you loved the drive-in, still go or have never been to one, there were pros and cons to putting it in park for a film.
Here are seven reasons we miss drive-ins, and seven reasons we don’t. Let us know, what was your favorite and least favorite aspect about the drive-in theater?
1. We miss: The Cheap Concessions
The perfect popped corn, drizzled with melted butter and covered in salt was all the reason most people needed to get to the drive-in early. Today, this very same reason is why some forego the theater in any capacity, due to the high prices! While at the top of its proverbial game in the ‘50s, drive-in theaters’ cost to get everyone in the car a snack could easily be cheaper than the price of a single movie ticket today!
2. We miss: Being Outside
While going to the drive-in was already a great way to spend a summer night, the fresh air flowing through the rolled down windows could make the experience that much better. Plus, being outside meant you could get out and walk around without feeling trapped or worried that you’ll step on someone from being inside the crowded theater!
3. We miss: Being More Comfortable in the Car
Image credit: AP Image
While it may not be on the same comfort level as being on the couch under a blanket, at least you could be sitting in your own car seat rather than a small, hard-padded movie theater chair. The ability to recline that seat only makes the movie-going experience that much more comfortable! Today, there are plenty of high-end movie theaters with expensive recliners for seats, but back in the day, when theaters were the go-to way to see a film, you had to be prepared to sit in the same position for multiple hours…with no recline!
4. We miss: Setting the Radio Dial
We definitely miss tuning the radio dial to just the right spot so the movie audio comes in crystal clear! With the exception of the relatively few drive-ins left across the country, this mode of finding the audio is all but extinct. Once you had the right FM station, you were ready to enjoy your movie. Something so satisfying about this piece of the drive-in experience is something we wish we could bring back!
5. We miss: Double Features
Image credit: The Everett Collection
Nothing better than two for the price of one! More times than not, double feature movies were included in the price of one ticket! Why only watch one, when you can watch two? It was a great way to spend the whole evening with friends, family or a date!
6. We miss: Avoiding the crowds
While you did have to maneuver the parking area in your car, you really weren’t right next to people like in a normal movie theater. You could stretch out in the comfort of your vehicle and didn’t have to feel pressured to be as quiet. It was great for discussing the plot of the movie with your friends, without annoying everyone sitting next to you!
7. We miss: Sneaking in
Admit it…everyone has tried at some point or another to sneak a snack or drink into the movie theater. Well, at the drive-in, it was way easier for obvious reasons: There were plenty of areas to hide your snacks in the car! Some would be so daring to try to sneak people into the drive-in, through the trunks of their cars! Did you ever sneak into the drive-in?
8. We don’t miss: Doors Slamming
While at a normal theater, viewers can get pretty annoyed if other movie-goers talk or get up a lot. It’s a great reason to avoid going to the theater and opt for the drive-in. However, that doesn’t mean there weren’t ways to disrupt a movie, such as car doors slamming. Depending on how frequently your parking spot neighbors get up to go to the concessions, there could be a lot of “thuds” and car door slams that just might begin to irritate you!
9. We don’t miss: Horn Honking
Honking the horn was commonplace at the drive-in after a movie ended to symbolize the applauding from the viewers. However, it got old when the honking didn’t stop! It wasn’t uncommon to hear the occasional horn at the start and perhaps throughout the second movie of the double feature!
10. We don’t miss: Lack of Drive-in Etiquette
Image credit: The Everett Collection
Perhaps this one became more of a problem as drive-in theaters declined across the nation, but all of us can likely recall a time where a driver got on our nerves, generally over the commonsense aspects of going to the drive-in! Some examples include: Having the lights from the car behind you shine right into your eyes through the rear-view mirror, or leaving the engine running throughout the film, just loud enough so you can’t hear the movie in your own car!
11. We don’t miss: The Drive-In Car Speakers
Pull right up to the pole and grab your speaker to listen to the movie! It was a great idea, but many felt the frustration when the speaker wouldn’t work correctly, the cord was tangled or sometimes, when the speaker wasn’t even there! If you got a working speaker, there’s a good chance the audio wasn’t the clearest, making it difficult to hear the film.
12. We don’t miss: The Car Battery Dying
If you went to the drive-in after the window-speaker era ended and weren’t well-versed in how to prepare, there’s a chance you could get stuck with a dead car battery! Generally you were supposed to keep your car off at the drive-in, but often times had to use your car radio for the movie audio. There you were, fully engaged in the film on the big screen when the audio cuts out and the realization of what just happened sets in. It only took one dead car battery to never forget the portable radio and extra AA batteries again! Don’t forget the jumper cables, just in case!
13. We don’t miss: Getting Stuck in the Mud
Maybe you got lucky and this never happened. For some, getting stuck in the mud after a movie meant one movie-goer in your car had to get out and push while the driver splashed mud all over them! Though likely a rarity for most, be wary of grass parking areas! Did you ever get stuck after a movie?
14. We don’t miss: Traffic in/out
Earlier we said one thing we missed about drive-ins is that you didn’t have to deal with a big crowd...shoulder to shoulder. You did have to navigate traffic, and depending on what new movie you were seeing, the lot could get pretty full! Queue the horn honking and sour looks through the car windows! Some theaters had employees to guide you out in a timely manner. At some locations, it could be a race to the exit!
15. “Let’s all go” to the MeTV Store!
If you’re a drive-in fan, you’ve seen the classic “Let’s All Go” advertisement, for all the must-have concession snacks, countless times! This weekend, make the drive-in your couch with Svengoolie! Check out and shop our brand-new Svengoolie artist collection shirt, with the “Let’s All Go” theme! Click here to head to the MeTV Store!