"It’s a Family Thing:" The Family Drive-in Theatre

"It’s a Family Thing:" The Family Drive-in Theatre

This initial rush into the lot is the most hectic moment at a drive-in theater. Experienced viewers dart to their favorite spots in the middle of the middle rows or to the easy-to-exit last rows, while newbies lose their way between the signs for Screen One and Screen Two and park yards away from the speaker—all while a growing number of children flee their parents cars for the playground or the concession stand. At the Family Drive-in in Stephens City, Virginia, this disorganized herd is managed by a team of teenaged car wranglers.

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At the Drive-in: A Must-See Drive-in Documentary

At the Drive-in: A Must-See Drive-in Documentary

When Hollywood distributors announced that they’d be converting entirely from film to digital movies, they essentially issued an ultimatum to America’s remaining drive-in movie theaters—convert your projection booths for the hefty fee of 50,000 dollars or die. For many locally owned theaters, this demand came as a final blow to an already struggling business model; they played their last shows and sold their lots to real-estate developers. Those that did make the switch did so by crowdfunding, forming community non-profit groups, grants, and dogged determination. The Mahoning Drive-in Theater, near Allentown, Pennsylvania, decided to stay alive and stay on film.

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Building Community, 250 Cars At A Time: Dave Meyers’ Drive-In Dream

Building Community, 250 Cars At A Time: Dave Meyers’ Drive-In Dream

Arizona’s boundless black dessert sky makes for an ideal drive-in movie setting—a business dependent on open spaces and dark nights. In the past, when Americans were moving west in station wagons, the state was home to more than fifty theaters with names like “The Cactus” and “The Golden Valley Drive-in.” Today, only the West Wind Glendale 9 remains in operation, but Dave Meyers has a plan to begin reviving the drive-in tradition in Arizona.

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8 of My Must-See Drive-ins on Leg One (And Why I Picked Them):

8 of My Must-See Drive-ins on Leg One (And Why I Picked Them):

The Project Rules:

I dreamed up this project one night in the midst of a depressed sleeplessness, so the only rules are the ones I set for myself. This what I’ve settled on.

Rule 1: If a state has a drive-in, I’ll go. So, Wyoming—one drive-in—I’m going. That’s it, the only rule.

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Under the Stars in Bangalore: One of India's Only Drive-in Theaters

Under the Stars in Bangalore: One of India's Only Drive-in Theaters

After attending an open-air movie screening, Abhijit Shah came up with a crazy idea—open a drive-in movie theater in his hometown, Bangalore, India. He shared his idea with a few friends and soon, “Under the Stars Cinema” (UTS) was born.

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Thinking Outside the Screen: John Watzke and the Ocala Drive-in

Thinking Outside the Screen: John Watzke and the Ocala Drive-in

Daylight was already sinking down the main screen when I arrived at the Ocala Drive-in. Owner John Watzke had agreed to meet for an interview but was running late, leaving me time to explore. Walking around a drive-in during the day feels like being backstage at a theater; you have to be “in” to get invited.

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The Silver Moon Drive-In: A Side Hustle

The Silver Moon Drive-In: A Side Hustle

Like many twenty-six-year-olds, Chip Sawyer, a financial advisor for Publix Supermarkets with a master’s degree in Business Administration, has a side hustle—he owns two of Florida’s seven remaining drive-in movie theatres. The soft-spoken, curly-haired Sawyer inherited the Silver Moon and Joy-Lan Drive-ins after his grandfather’s death in 2017.  I met him in his office behind the Silver Moon’s original, 1948 screen.

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