We hardly knew ya, oh humble drive in theater. Those of my generation and the ones to comes will only hear the tales of your greatness. Sitting around photo albums of Polaroids from the 70’s, we will hear of your magnificence. The old timers well talk about romance, and silver screen dreams of the stars of the past. We will listen closely while each part of the experience is talked out in detail.
This would be how I would start a eulogy for the fading drive in movie theater. That is, if I cared that it was a dying relic of the past. But the truth is, I don’t. The drive in theater has been irrelevant for decades now, and will only continue to be so. I understand that they are making a bit of a comeback right now. I get that. But only for the same reason that Polaroids, fancy mustaches, and big wheel bicycles are coming back: hipster culture.
Let’s be honest, anything old that is popular right now is just part of a fad where everyone thinks the relics from our past are suddenly awesome again. Truth is, most of these things are not awesome. And that includes the drive in theater. Besides the ridiculous amount of money it takes to have a relevant drive in, nostalgia is not enough to keep the industry afloat. If I wanted to pay that much for a movie, I would do so for a movie inside with air conditioning and protection from any sudden weather.
Cost and Cars Killing the Drive In Theater
There are a number of reasons for the demise of the drive in theater. First is the rising cost of maintaining and upgrading the automotive movie havens. New projectors to keep up with the standards of filming can costs tens of thousands of dollars. Maintaining the display surface at the drive in can also come at a hefty cost. Then there is concession equipment costs, keeping the lots paved (unless you like parking on mud puddles).
Then there’s the sound system. Most modern drive in theaters now use FM transmission for the movie sound. Which is cool because you can have your windows rolled up and still hear it. But it requires battery power. That leaves you with a choice: Run the battery down or run your gas down keeping the alternator working. Leaving the motor running in idle for 2.5 hours is not a good idea. I could go on and on, but you see where I’m going.
Mother Nature Doesn’t Care About Your Movie
This is another thing about drive in theaters. Mother nature doesn’t give a damn if you had made these plans 2 weeks ago. If she feels like pissing on your parade, she’s going to. Don’t anger a mother. It’s not a pretty site. No, mother nature has zero fucks to give about our plans. That’s why the drive in theater is a nightmare to plan. “Hey, we’re going to show a double feature”. Then the actual night of the showing it’s pouring rain and hail stones the size of the peanut M&M’s you just paid six dollars for.
Sure, I would rather be at a drive in if the power went out, but then again, I wouldn’t be near a drive in if I thought that was even a chance to begin with. I don’t even like getting my mail when it’s raining, let alone go to a movie theater that requires me to have to possibly get soaked, or have the chance of my car blowing up.
Filth and Fornication
The last reason for why drive in theaters should not be around anymore. As generations get raunchier, it naturally goes that they will be raunchier in different places. Coupled with drug use, dirty diapers thrown on the ground, and god knows what else, it’s unsanitary to say the least. Seriously, the only squishing I want to hear under my feet at the movies is a piece of gum spit out on the ground. Not a used condom.
What is Better than the Drive In
A regular movie theater. Duh. What I like about a regular movie theater is being in a crowd of people who, when a big blockbuster is first released, experience the wonder together. Everyone jumps at the same times, sees and hears things at the same time. We collectively experience the same movie. That and, oh yeah, no mud to drive in, busted up speakers, running the car, possible getting soaked by rain. No birds crapping through the windows as they look for dropped popcorn.
Even watching movies at home is better. Hulu, Netflix, Putlocker (I’m not judging anyone). An environment that you can control, with snacks that you want, and if you are lucky, nobody else has their little brats there to shout over the best lines. Enjoy your movie your way. That’s something you can’t beat.
Now imagine the future. Virtual reality is sure to have a role in movies eventually. Imagine a first person movie where you are literally in the action. Hear something to your right? Look right and see what it was. Think the monster is behind you? Turn around and find out. Want to talk about messing your pants when watching a movie? Because that’s how it happens.
Let’s take the VR concept one step further. What if, and this is a big what if, you could choose the movie based on the character you wanted to be? Imagine having your friends over, strapping on the VR and everyone is a different character of the movie. How sweet would that be? It would definitely give a whole new set of experiences to talk about after the movie.
So, to finish, farewell to the drive in theater. A remnant of a past when things were different and experiences were new. We here in 2017 enjoy the experiences we have now and the ones that have yet to come. May your broken down signs and degrading screen surfaces be a reminder to us all that nothing is forever. And that better things will always come. Catch ya on the flip side… That is, if I feel like looking for you.