Drive-in movies make a comeback & backyard movies trend

Drive-ins make a comeback - Good to Know Magazine, USA
Outdoor and drive-in movies trend  – Photo courtesy of Good to Know Magazine

Roll down the windows and let nostalgia fill the air. Drive-in movies are making a comeback & backyard movies are trending.

If you are a hopeless optimist like me, you’ve found ways to cope with the pandemic limitations.

Just as luxuries, like going to a movie, have been stripped away in the blink of an eye, other pastimes have cruised back into view.

Depending on which era you grew up in determines how familiar you probably are with drive-in movies. For many, hearing about drive-in theaters beget memories of your parents reminiscing about drive-ins, and you think, oh no, there they go again, talking about the old days.

Drive-in movies make a comeback - backyard movies trend - Good to Know Magazine
Couple looks forward to drive-in movies- Photo courtesy of Good to Know Magazine

Or, drive-in movies bring on a sense of nostalgia and you’re left with wondering why it went out of style in the first place.

Whether you have fond memories or think drive-ins are stories of legend, you may be pleased to hear big-screen outdoor movies are making a comeback. With an outdoor cinema revival, the chance to catch a whiff of motion picture nostalgia is simply irresistible.

Drive-in movies make a comeback - backyard movies trend - Good to Know Magazine
Snacks at the drive-in – Photo courtesy of Good to Know Magazine

Not only do movies transport people across generations to different times and places, motion pictures are often a precursor to the direction cultures are moving, either by chance or by force. Let me explain through some historical clips.

Drive-in movies make a comeback - backyard movies trend - Good to Know Magazine
Technology in moc speed – Photo courtesy of Good to Know Magazine

Large populations in dense cities during the early 20th century ushered moviegoers to walk to movie theaters before automobiles became widely affordable and popular.

Then, after WWII, families began moving to the suburbs where plenty of space and cars were all the rage. By the 1950s, families flocked to drive-ins. Children road along for free and could crash or get rowdy without bothering others. Drive-ins put date night on an entirely new level. 

Drive-ins make a comeback - outdoor movies trend - Good to Know Magazine
All kids free at the drive-in – Photo courtesy of Good to Know Magazine

The good ole days lasted a couple of decades then things began to change. Winter became a problem. The weather is cold and wet. Back then, back in the olden days, viewers had to roll the car window down in order to prop the large metal low tech speaker on the door’s window. Now that was a bother.

Drive-in movies make a comeback = Good to Know Magazine
Winter is coming – Photo courtesy of Good to Know Magazine

Over the decades these little pitfalls became large potholes revealing plenty of profit loss as increased real estate and property taxes hit the roof in the ’70s. Make note, drive-ins need at least 15 acres to operate. By the ’80s drive-ins were on the road to a bad ending. Operable drive-ins within the US were few and far between. And, with the invention of the VCR (Video Cassette Recorder), families gobbled up popcorn and soda for pennies on the dollar in the comfort of their own home.

Family enjoys modern technology at home – Photo courtesy of Good to Know Magazine

As drive-ins hung on by a thread in the ’90s. the rising real estate & tax costs, remarkable strides with home movie technology, cold weather limiting profits, and the DVD insertion  – where the middle-class families were then able to rent or own thousands of tiny discs needing minimal storage space with added exceptional digital viewing and sound quality, video killed the radio star.

The final curtain for drive-ins, if there were any left at all, is the introduction of streaming video in the 21st century with Netflix, Amazon and Hulu.  Did I mention the fast-growing technology? No storage, no waiting, excellent viewing quality, millions of options across all genres at any moment with the touch of a finger – all in the comfort of an air-conditioned or heated snuggly home with family and friends. All-day. Every day.

As general admissions steadily decreased movie producers and directors became anxious.  For instance, multi-winning-oscar director Steven Spielberg filed a case against Netflix and argued movies released on streaming channels should be voted in an Emmy category, not an Oscar category. Netflix won.

Circling back to how motion pictures drive culture and transport people across generations to different times and places, either by chance or by force. 

Insert COVID.

The virus has forced each and every one of us to not only look at life differently but to see life differently. The luxury of laying on the sofa with the ability to watch millions of movies like a sloth for months on end gives way to jumping in the car with an urgent need to get out of the house and watch a movie outside. Anywhere but the sofa!

Outdoor Cinema Events - San Francisco Bay Area
Outdoor Cinema Events – Photo courtesy of Outdoor Cinema Events

Because technology has made such lengthy strides, outdoor movies and drive-in cinema have a happy ending. Or shall I say, a new beginning? 

Remember the hopeless optimist at the beginning of the article? There’s a sparkle of hope for this loved pastime. Not only are drive-in movie experiences trending, you may be surprised to hear there are quite a few available nearby. Also, companies that specialize in outdoor movie rental equipment are on the rise. The idea of hosting a social distancing outdoor movie experience creates room for an entirely new take on an old tradition. Ready. Set. Camera. Action!

Drive-ins make a comeback - Good to Know Magazine
Outdoor movies trend – Photo courtesy of Good to Know Magazine

Beanbags, warm blankets, popcorn and a nice family classic under the stars in the comfort of your own backyard sound like a new tradition we can all get used to. Check out some of the options below while the weather still permits!

The Best Drive-ins in every state

Bay Area Drive-ins

Luther Burbank Film Series

Cameo Cinema St. Helena

Outdoor Cinema Events

Starry Movie Nights

Fun Flicks

Open Air Cinema

Thrill Zone Entertainment