Return of the Drive-In?

My first movie memory is of seeing 101 Dalmatians at a drive-in theater somewhere in Poughkeepsie. I suspect that the memory is incorrect, since I would have been almost eight when the film opened, we no longer lived in Poughkeepsie and I was too old for both the movie and the pajamas-with-feet-in-the-back-of-the station-wagon experience that I vividly recall.

But I'm sure about the drive-in. Back in the day, this was the easiest way for a young family with children to get to a movie without having to hire a babysitter. Of course, if I had been a teen, I would have taken some unsuspecting female to the drive-in to watch early Roger Corman and neck. The drive-in was probably less than an ideal way to see a movie -- you had to contend with atmospheric effects ranging from drizzling rain to glorious sunsets, and the little speakers that hung on the car window had a tinny sound that would be unacceptable today in our Dolby-ized world.

At any rate, the 1973 oil crash put paid to the drive-in for all intents and purposes. A few lingered on, indeed, according to the excellent DriveInMovie.com, there are 30 working drive-ins in New York State alone. But that is quite a comedown from a 1963 peak of over 150.

The reason I'm waxing nostalgic for the lost paradise (such as it was) of automotive movie-going is an item on CinemaTech in which Scott Kirsner talks about MobMov, a new digital operation that is quickly spreading across the country, showing movies outdoors around the country (and the world, apparently). This is not that new an idea; Jeanne Liotta has been doing it every summer on the Lower East Side with her Firefly Cinema. But these gents are working with young filmmakers to provide a new way of getting unreleased features a screening for a live audience before they go to DVD (and probable oblivion). At the very least, an outdoor screening would allow those of us who still do so to smoke during the movie. (I probably miss that more than the drive-in, even though I almost never smoke anymore.)

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