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The Helena Arkansas Daily World - Helena, AR
  • Random Thought: Drive-in movies will probably be forgotten

  • My daughter, Christina, recently informed me there was a movement afoot to shut down the drive-in theater in Mountain View. If I am not mistaken it is the last or next-to-last drive-in movie theatre remaining in Arkansas.
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  • My daughter, Christina, recently informed me there was a movement afoot to shut down the drive-in theater in Mountain View. If I am not mistaken it is the last or next-to-last drive-in movie theatre remaining in Arkansas. If the effort succeeds, it's another piece of Americana that will ride off into the sunset with John Wayne, the drug store soda fountain and Main Street America – Route 66. I might as well be realistic about this piece of nostalgia, when this generation passes the drive-in movie will probably not even be missed. Let's face it – this was not the best set of circumstances to watch a movie. First of all, the sound from the speaker that you placed in the window of your vehicle was simply awful. The driver might be able to understand the dialogue but it was garbled to the rest of the people in the car. Frequently, people stampeding to the snack bar during the crucial moments of the movie impeded your view. The movie could not start until well after dark because you simply could not see the projection on the screen if there was the slightest bit of light, including the taillights from the vehicles in front of you. Of course there was the comical side of drive-in movies. Like at the theater, each person was required to buy a ticket. Many times, stowaways would ride through the drive-in movie gates in the trunk of a car to get in free. Probably more times than not, it worked. Sometimes the joke was one the perpetrator when the drive-in owner decided to offer a $1 per vehicle special for the evening. Then, there was always the going joke about no one ever went to a drive-in movie to actually see the movie. All you had to do was look around and see the steamed up car windows. Rarely did the classic movies get an airing in the great outdoors. The flicks at the drive-in were usually B-grade horror flicks and westerns. I believe that “Woodstock” was the last movie I went to see at the drive-in theater in Osceola. Weather sometimes created a problem for drive-in movies with rain and thunderstorms occasionally causing cancellations. Drive-in movie operations also were seasonal – summer only. When Joyce and I first got married we lived directly across the street from the old drive-in theater at Batesville. This was in the early 1980s when movies were beginning to become a little more explicit. Most drive-in movies were set up where you could not actually see the movie from a highway or roadway, but not the Batesville drive-in. If you could have read lips, you could have watched the show from our front yard. The Helena-West Helena drive-in had long since ceased operation when I moved to Phillips County. The screen stood near the entrance to Southland Road several years before finally being torn down. I thought what a treasure of nostalgic items could be found on a now deserted lot that once was home to a drive-in theater. There must have been a ton of pop bottle caps, gum and candy wrappers and maybe some pieces from automobiles that could be found with a metal detector and perhaps some items not suitable to be mentioned here in a family-oriented column. At the height of the movie industry in the 1950s and 60s, 25 percent of the nation's movie screens were drive-ins. Today, the number nationwide has dwindled to 1.5 percent. A number of factors were involved as the drive-in headed toward near extinction. Widespread adoption of daylight saving time reduced outdoor viewing time by an hour. The coming of color television, VCRs and video rentals also led to sharp declines in drive-in attendance. Drive-ins enjoyed a brief revival as a novelty status primarily as a nostalgia whim before fading from view again.
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