.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Fun Joel's Screenwriting Blog


-- On Screenwriting and Related Topics

My Photo
Location: Los Angeles, CA

I moved from NYC to LA in October, 2003. And though I still think NYC is the greatest city in the world, I'm truly loving life here in the City of Angels. I'm a writer, reader, and occasional picture-taker.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Drive-In Memories

In reading and following the various responses to my meme (or questionnaire, for those of you who object to the term), I found it interesting that there were a few common responses. Probably the most obvious was listing Stephen King as a favorite author. I never realized truly how many people love him so much that they'd list him among their top three responses. More predictably, Star Wars was among the most common films listed as "earliest film-related memory."

But one common response, specifically, made me jealous, and got me thinking about another memory I wanted to share, since I find it amusing. A number of people, not much different in age from myself, had early memories of going to a drive-in to watch a movie (typically with parents). I have never been to one, and always wished I had. (On a side note, I think there is a drive-in somewhere around LA now, isn't there? Let me know if anyone wants to make a night of it sometime.)

Still, though I never attended a film at a drive-in, I still have an early drive-in memory. When I was about 3 or 4 years old, my family moved to Livingston, NJ. Our house was on a hill, and if you walked up to the top of the block, you were even higher on the hill, from which you could see into the distance for at least a few miles.

Not that far away, I believe in the next town over (East Hanover), there was a drive-in on Route 10. Years later it became a place you brought your cars to get them inspected, but for many years it was operational as a drive-in movie theater. And as "luck" would have it, the screen faced towards my home and that hill.

Now clearly it was too distant an object to ever make out any details on the screen whatsoever. But still, against the dark of the night sky, a movie playing on that screen certainly stood out and you could sense some kind of movement.

We lived in that house until I was 12 1/2, so I'm not sure when this memory comes from, but I'd guess it came closer to the end of my time there. I'd guess when I was about 11 or so. But I have distinct memories of climbing the hill to the top of the block and sitting down on the sidewalk to watch that drive-in movie screen. Of course, in my pubescent (or soon-to-be-pubescent) mind, I convinced myself of the impossible. Not only could I see the movie screen, but I was certain those were boobs (as I probably referred to them then) from an illicit (to me) R-rated movie. I'd already seen some issues of Playboy by then (the first memorably featuring shots of Bo Derek taken from 10), but it wasn't until some years later, as a babysitter, that I got to see my first R-rated movie (albeit on cable TV). So this was a silly thrill.

Maybe it is memories like this that add to the dedication one feels to the entire world of movies. This added magic and mystique. I don't have stories to tell like this about too many other media (ok, I've got a lot of music-related memories and stories, but the music business is way too scummy for me, but that's a post for a different time). Regardless, it is an entertaining memory for me. Anyone have similar memories of their own?

Tags: ,


Blogger taZ said...

I can see a young boy climbing to the top of a hill a summernight 1960 with the stars glaring down from a cloudless dark sky, only because of it's passion to see movies playing in a drive-in miles away from there.

Can I adapt your life-story?

I was afraid not... Nice memory though!

8:07 PM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

1960?! How old do you think I am? I was born in '71. :-)

8:20 PM  
Blogger taZ said...

Haha, I knew you would say that!

Of course you are born in 1971, but I think the end of 50's - beginning of 60's is cosier.

Why? When I think story of a kid/s, I think "Stand by Me". 1959. Much better on film. ;)

11:12 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

We had a drive-in in my hometown, the Potomac. The only thing I remember seeing there was Godzilla v. Megalon and The Incredible Melting Man (double feature). Ironically, the space is now occupied by a Motor Vehicles Administration office.

11:23 PM  
Blogger oneslackmartian said...

In Indiana we even had X-rated drive-in movies. What a whacked out state. We didn't have daylight savings time, because, really, why would you want an extra hour in our state, but we could watch GIANT PORN in our corn fields.

Of course, as kids we never got to see any of this. Until we found the hill.

You know why it's called the Heartland? No brain.

12:21 AM  
Anonymous Eddie said...

I remember going to drive-in all the time as a kid, but not watching many of the films. For us kids, the excitement was the playground in front of/under the big screen.

Though I do remember the playground being empty during Star Wars, Smokey and the Bandit, and anything with "boobs."

2:57 AM  
Anonymous Tim Albaugh said...

Hi-Way 39 on Beach Blvd. in The OC was a prime drive in with 6 screens. Loved watching six movies at once! Now it's a WalMart! I think there's a Pacific Drive In in Pico Rivera. Might be taking your life in your hands going there though.

9:20 AM  
Blogger Webs said...

Every second summer or so, we and the kids drive the van an hour to the only drive-in in our metropolitan area. We park backwards, flip open the rear hatch, and turn the rear bench seat around.

It's kinda fun.

9:29 AM  
Blogger The Awful Writer said...

I saw just enough movies at drive-ins that I don't have specific memories of any one movie or drive-in (other than my first when I saw Yellow Submarine as a 6 years old). What I remember are small snippets.

I remember you needed to unroll the window a bit so you could hang the speaker on it. If it was cold out you only unrolled the window a small amount. Just enough to hang the speaker. If it was warm out you unrolled the window most of the way, leaving just enough window to have something to hang the speaker on.

The speaker was a really chunky thing, with a thick cord that connected it to a pole stuck in the ground next to your parking spot.

I remember sometimes the speaker was really crummy and you could barely hear the movie.

I remember walking from the car to the concession stand to get pop-corn. It's like walking through a parking lot, except all the parked cars have people in them.

As you walked to the concession stand you would continually look back over your shoulder towards the screen so you wouldn't miss any of the movie. You would try to walk close to cars to pick up bits of sound coming from their speakers.

The concession stand was a small enclosed building. You walked into it rather than up to it. It would have the movie's sound piped into it so you could listen to the movie while standing in line. There were windows in the wall facing the screen so you could also watch the movie.

I remember that the rows of parking spots were slightly inclined. When parked, the front of your car was raised up a bit relative to the rear of your car. If you got to the drive-in early, when few other cars were there, then you could have a little fun driving up and over rows of empty parking spots. A little motocross with cars.

I remember car trips to relatives that took us past drive-ins. I would naturally crane my neck as we passed by to see as much as I could before the screen went out of view.

6:05 AM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

Wow! Great fun memories everyone. I'm totally jealous.

Martian -- you win for funniest!

Awful -- great vivid details. Thanks. Makes the experience come more alive. :-)

7:00 AM  
Blogger Writeprocrastinator said...

Though I've been more than three times, I can only remember three drive-in movies in particular.

1) "Song of The South." Still can't get that stupid "Zip-a-dee-doo-dah" song out of my head and my grandfather had me duck down under a blanket in the back so he didn't have to pay for me.

2) "Stir Crazy" and "Silver Streak" double feature. I loved both films back then but they haven't aged as well when I saw snippets of the censored versions on AMC.

3) The Cheech & Chong where Pee Wee Herman made his debut and I can't remember the title, but not because I was high when I saw it. This was a double-date/blind-massacre, er, date. This set a precedent for all my blind dates to come, complete disaster and I'm glad I didn't have to depend on blind dates for a love life. If you ask me, "would you rather go on a blind date or have your teeth pulled?" I'd ask how many would you like? And no, anesthesia won't be necessary.

Joel, with the tinny speakers, bad projectors and the fact that it took forever to get out, you didn't miss much. But it sure was nice to be able to sneak in all kinds of food and distractions.

4:59 PM  
Blogger Alicia said...

And why don't they have drive-ins anymore? We must've had a Republican in office that heard the youth of America were sneaking onto hilltops to corrupt their minds with bodacious ta-tas!

My drive-in memory: double feature of Grease followed by Albert Brooks in Modern Romance. I remember being told to go to sleep but I also remember the movie... that's me, typically defiant! :)

3:58 AM  
Blogger Roamin Ronin said...

I'm sad to say that I came well after the drive-in days ('83 here) but the normal movies and other media make me wish I'd been around with a hot-to-trot ladyfriend to try it out.

Anyway, if you do find that drive-in, I'd love to check it out. I just moved out to CA and besides a late-night drive around the city, haven't found too many cool spots to entertain myself just yet.

5:59 AM  
Anonymous kristen said...

FJ - there's a drive-in in City of Industry, I believe. I've been there twice. I saw "The Bourne Identity" there in a double feature with somethign else, and I also saw "Eight Legged Freaks", which stunk. Funny, I can't remember the other half of either of those double features.

Most remaining drive-ins that I know of are triple-screen affairs, almost like going to the cineplex. If you move your car you can watch a different double feature. That sounds better than it really is -- the added light pollution makes the contrast pretty crappy on screen. The sound's not the greatest either. You play it through your radio these days (in most places, it's been like that for about 20 years), so you need to either run down your battery or bring a boom box. You can usually unfortunately hear the sound from competing movies unless you really blast yours.

But it's still fun. The best part has always been the snack bar.

I grew up going to the drive-in (in Connecticut) a LOT in high school. I was really lucky... I don't think ours closed until we went off to college... maybe '93 or '94. Now it's a flea market like all the others. But I have a lot of fond memories there. Met & flirted with my first boyfriend at a drive-in, did the requisite making out there, watched the double feature of "Father of the Bride" and "Beauty and the Beast" there with friends senior year. We actually sat on the roof of my friend's dad's van, inside sleeping bags. We got our audio off everyone else's cars.

During the half-time break you'd always see a bunch of people you knew in line at the ladies room. They also had the best salty, limp, disgusting french fries.

And this cool recruitment movie to try and get people to join the Air Force. The guys in the film had afros. I think it was about 20 years old at that point. I don't know if they showed it out of some distribution requirement or if it was just a nostalgia thing.

Geez, I could go on and on. If you can't tell, I'm pretty torn up over the disappearance of the drive-in from small town America. It's definitely part of the whole community thing that's rapidly vanishing from the planet. Everyone just stays home in their dark little cells.

Like your story, BTW. Definitely write that into a memoir-style movie! Movies about Jersey are hot right now. ; )

3:58 AM  
Blogger Ed Araquel said...

My earliest drive-in memory is of watching Shane with my parents and brothers and sister. Funny thing was, this drive-in had 2 screens: one on opposite ends such that you could turn around and watch the other movie. Well, when I turned around, I saw women running around naked and Nazi soldiers. I later found out that this was the infamous Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS movie! :)


9:41 AM  
Blogger markclemens said...

Still have one just the next town over here in Vermont. I think it may be one of the last two (maybe the last one) in the state. Every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night. $14 for the double feature. Snack bar on the premesis, and during intermission (between the two films) a 10 minute real that must've been left over from the late 60s. Dancing foods, to jazz (animated).

A hot dog does flips for a bun, like a trained seal. Then the bun indicates his chest, and the hot dog jumps in. The phalicness (is that a word?) of the event is not lost on the crowd. That's the cue to honk your car horn as loud as you can. ;)

RV and MI3 this week. ;)

5:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a production company in L.A. called The Hollywood Drive-In now. They are raising money to build a permanent drive-in and in the meantime they have this cool transportable infrastructure and movie it around to lots Westwood, Hollywood and Loz Feliz. I have seen their website and its looks pretty cool. www.hollywood-drive-in.com

I have also been to the City Of Industry and it is THE BEST! Everyone should go at least once:)

9:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We run a little dinner theater and we are doing a play about a 40 year reunion with flashback scenes to the drive in back in 1970's. We are having lots of fun checking out everyone's drive in memories. Our town's drive in was tore down 10 years ago. There is a B&B there now. Does anyone remember the wiener jumping into the bun?

5:02 AM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

Though I never was actually at a Drive-In, I'm familiar with that bit from seeing it second-hand in many other movies and the like. That's a VERY famous animation!

8:53 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home