There are some experiences in life that seem to never get old. Going to a drive-in movie theater is such an event for me. Last night I had the opportunity to go with friends to the Georgetown Drive-In, just across the river from Louisville. I used to go with my dad or other family members to the Swan Drive-In as a kid, but it has been a few years now since I last saw a movie under the stars.
The smell of a typical indoor cinema is generally that of buttery popcorn. The smell of a drive-in is a mixture of the great outdoors and grease… pure, unadulterated hamburger and hot-dog grease. The aroma of a dozen different fried foods hangs in the atmosphere over the theater like the smog over Los Angeles. The crickets chirping and the occasional passing train complete the ambiance. If you are lucky, it is a double-feature, a common standard at drive-ins and usually to the customer’s financial benefit. If you are even luckier, the drive-in owners know that this is a nostalgic experience and have crafted the environment as such. The ability to see a film using a fifty-plus year-old film projector and listen to fully-functioning hanging car window speakers is awesome. To play twenty year-old video games in the small arcade area brings back a rush of memories like no other. The chance to watch old movie trailers and commercials on the screen and see various odd memorabilia in the facilities makes one feel as if he or she has stepped back a few decades for a few moments in time.
Sadly, drive-ins are getting fewer and fewer. With the coming switchover to completely digital film distribution technology, even more will die out under the expensive costs of buying digital projectors, as drive-ins are still essentially mom-and-pop establishments. It is a sad loss in culture and heritage. Perhaps the greatest thing about a drive-in is simply the chance to spend a mild summer evening being entertained under the expanse of the heavens. If it is a clear night, during a slow part of the film you can look up into the sky and see all the stars you don’t have a chance to see in the middle of a brightly lit city. It may be worth the money. It is certainly worth the drive.