I Don’t Think the Drive-In Movie Experience is Worth Reviving

Time to get a little controversial again. This is something that has been sitting in my brain for a bit, and I just need to say it. I know you value my honesty.

I’m not thrilled about the resurgence of the “Drive-In Movie Experience.”

As local theaters around me convert their parking lots, and WalMart decides to enter the business and crush small theater chains who can’t afford to adapt (it’s a business model!), I am filled with trepidation about the trend.

I know that there’s a romanticizing of the experience for people who are approaching middle age, among the last with true working memories of the drive-in theater. But while I’ve changed my mind about the Return of the LP, and have a nice collection built up in that format again, I don’t think I can get on board with drive-in movie theaters making a big comeback.

The primary reason is that the experience sucks. There, I said it.

Drive In Movie Theater | kesseljunkie
What an experience!

The Last Drive-In

The last drive-in movie I went to was a longer time ago than I care to remember. There was a lot of noise, the car got stuffy since we turned the engine off, and there were interruptions regularly about the snack bar.

I’ll note that the car got stuffy on a temperate night in the middle of nowhere in Maryland. Now that I live in the Sun Belt, trapping me in a car at any time of day is worse treatment than they get at Gitmo. I don’t know why I’d pay for it, unless I frame it as a sweat lodge experience and at the end of it I gain some sort of shamanistic insight

There was no way to get “into” the movie, either. That extra pane of glass, the distractions all around, and the general discomfort subtracted from truly connecting with the movie.

You could circumvent that by showing only accessible extravaganzas with big action set pieces like Mission: Impossible, or John Wick, or a Fast & Furious movie. But I’d still prefer to watch those in real comfort instead of a wheeled prison environment.

Additionally, I think that people’s temperament has changed such that I don’t trust how an argument plays out when some idiot leaves their headlights on, or someone gets a bit too raunchy in the car next to you. I’m aware that drive-ins have always been a destination for a lovers’ rendezvous, and people have managed to enjoy the movies anyway, but I’m not sure the modern self-involved moviegoer cares as much about disturbing others as they once did.

So be prepared to have awkward conversations with your kids.

I’m sure some would say I’m looking too much at the downside of the drive-in experience. While I understand the sentiment, I’d simply retort that I’m not sure what the up side is.

The fact is that the Drive-In was a response to the rapid suburbanization of the country, and became an easy way to appeal to a society in the throes of its love affair with the automobile. They died out because better experiences presented themselves, not because of some Oliver Stone-style sinister conspiracy.

John Candy JFK Dean Andrews | kesseljunkie
“Don’t you get it, Jimmy? Big Movie killed the drive-in!”

The Best of No Worlds

While I don’t plan on shelling out $30 to Disney©®™ for Mulan at home, I don’t plan on shelling out $15 or more for a bad experience outside the home, either.

I’m sure that people hungry for a communal movie experience would ask for my solution to the problem, then. I don’t plan to give it, because that’s a whole other discussion I don’t want to get into right now.

I’d rather just go over to my Bookshelf of the Banned and watch a classic.

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