Saturday, April 16, 2005

The End of An Era...

Long Gone...
A venue of days gone past. I found the site by total mistake and it really brought back some memories. I miss drive-in theatres alot. The environment was fun for me. There was a playground to play on while they showed cartoons just before dark; a HUGE snack bar with every kind of food imaginable; a nice outdoor patio where you could sit to watch the movie, and you always seemed to meet some really nice people. I used to wander around even to other shows going on to make friends. My dad had to hunt me down, or have the projectionist call my name over the PA so that he could find me.

Ah, The Memories
Back then it wasn't about surround sound and special effects; it was about doing something really cool; enjoying a movie in the "open-aire." Sure the audio from those cool metal speakers was tinny and horrible, but it was enough to hear what was going on. I remember trying to tie some down in the bed of my pickup truck after toking up a bit. My friends had to keep untying them from the stake pockets! It was quite hilarious! I never realized the great memories I had there, until recently finding this site:

Interesting Stuff
There's a little bit of info there, and some nice pictures as well. I found them all quite by accident. It all stemmed from a curiosity thing - link to another link to another link...
Pretty soon I've learned alot of crazy stuff along the way. Maybe that's why I'm such a trivia buff. I can even tell you a little bit about the company that made the little intermission films (called "clocks" because they tell you "it's 10 minutes until show time, get yourself some fresh hot popcorn", etc.) Hell, you can even buy those on DVD now (I'm debating on it; but they do have an almost hypnotizing effect on you, so be careful LOL.) They are somewhat creepy, yet intereresting. It's strange how stuff like that can stick in your mind over the years. Ah, the power of advertising! I swear that they run in my dreams!

Little Known Secret
I always thought that being the projectionist would be a great job; sit there and watch the reels go around, listen to the projector clicking away as the shutter opens and closes. The smell given off by the 4,000 watt carbon-arc bulb (be careful!) and winding film reels (splicing in commercials and clocks) as well as fixing them when they break. Those guys get paid good money and I know why. Have you ever seen the inside of a projection booth? They are very small, cramped and crammed with tons of stuff (not to mention dimly lit and hotter than hell!) ; it's not like there is alot of room up there, like to have a couch to sit on and just let the movie roll, getting ready to switch to the second projector when the first reel runs out.

Withering Away
I still wouldn't mind having the job, especially at a drive-in. Unfortunately, they are a dying breed. There are only a few hundred or so left in the US, and the numbers get smaller all the time. Developers entice the owners of theaters with offers that they can't refuse, and in their place are shopping centers and subdivisions. As a matter of fact, many years ago, a town where I once lived had a drive-in theater (before) right where my subdivision stood. I believe the projection booth was located somewhere near where our house was! There were still remnants left - light poles that were never torn down, and some abandoned structures. It's a pity how indoor theaters have taken over. There will never be anything like the american drive-in. It's an institution that's definitely part of Americana.

Go On, Try It!
If you ever get the chance to go to a drive-in, do so. If you have never experienced one, go find one. I'm telling you, there is nothing like watching a screen that is nearly twice as big as the ones in cinemas. There's just a feeling in the air that you can't get anywhere else. And you can't help but always wonder "what's playing on the other screens?" This makes me want to dig out my old 16MM movie projector and dig up some old movies to watch. I have some laying around where did I put that old bulky thing? Anyway....

Are You Ready?
The projector flickers to life and the warbled sound becomes intelligible as the film gets up to speed and the sound lamp warms up. The hungry dwarf will let you know that it's 10 minutes to show time. So go to the snack bar and get yourself some delicious, mouth-watering food and a nice ice cold soft drink. Don't worry - if you don't want some now, you'll definitely want it at intermission, when all of those images are conjured upon the screen, dancing merrily about, tantalizing you, and the friendly announcer voice haunts you from all around the field of unused speakers, echoing into the night "remember to visit our snack bar...." You can hear the creepy, yet suggestive smile in his voice with that catchy, happy music in the background (usually a string ensemble.) By now chills are running down my spine. 5...4...3...2...Blip....

And Now...Our Feature Presentation....

Welcome to the drive-in. Enjoy your movie.

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