I've always associated, drive-in movie theaters with the yesteryear of my parents. It is a muddled time in my imagination, when poodle skirts and rotary telephones were still the height of sophistication and our nation's collective fear was of a red communist haze descending upon our sleepy small towns. Growing up in the shopping mall-obsessed '80s, drive-ins were nothing more than creepy relics of a time long past. Their skeletal remains sat overgrown and dilapidated on unused country roads, offering little more than a place for high-school kids to dispose of illicit Jack Daniels bottles and to vent their worldly frustration by spray-painting obscenities on the vacant screen.
The advent of the VCR and other home entertainment devices was un problemo grande for the drive-in industry, which saw the number of screens take a major nose-dive. In the '50s, 5,000 screens had entertained the country. By 1998, that figure had petered out to less than 800, but has managed to hold at that number, and in some cases, the once-empty parking lots have had a surge of popularity, filling up and prompting owners to add additional screens. Drive-in theater enthusiasts are not so different from model train collectors. With a Wonder Years kind of nostalgia, they manage to keep the theaters in business without luring enough people to make them anywhere near mainstream.
The greater Boise area has two functioning drive-ins: the Terrace Drive-in Theater in Caldwell and (my favorite for its name) the Parma Motor-Vu Drive-in, both of which play movies Friday through Sunday. At the moment, the selections seem to be geared toward families with toddlers rather than hipsters wanting to make out. Three out of four of the movies playing currently are PG and the other one is Scary Movie 4.
Drive-ins are a cheap and bizarre way to spend a Saturday night and are moderately socially acceptable to boot. Quentin Tarantino, who has long expressed his love for the drive-in, and his equally subversive cohort, Robert Rodriguez, are teaming up this year to make the double feature Grind House. The movie, to be released this fall, is an exploitation flick in the '70s drive-in style, complete with fake ads played during the intermission.
With our fondness for all things retro, the return of the drive-in was only a matter of time. In purchasing Cruisers and Buddy Holly glasses, maybe we're all just trying to take a few steps back, re-examine the past, and in our weird little ways, make things a bit simpler. What could be easier than driving your car to the theater and just staying there? In the privacy of your own Pinto, you can do pretty much anything you want, and unlike movie theater seats, there's no gambling when it comes to cup holders.
Not all drive-ins are overgrown and strewn with rusted car parts and beer bottles. Some of them are actually alive and kicking.
Terrace Drive-In Theater, 3701 S. Lake Ave., Caldwell, 455-1433; Parma Motor-Vu Drive-In, 29522 Old Highway 95, Parma, (208) 722-6401.
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