If you are old enough to remember those “Buck Nights” at the drive-in theater where you could bring in a whole carload of folks for $1 your heart is sure to go pitter-pat over the 2020 version of the drive-in experience.
First of all, who even knew there were still drive-ins around that haven’t been converted exclusively to swap meets? Well, Virginia, just as there is a Santa Claus, there is also a working drive-in in Paramount, CA, and some of us got to visit it firsthand thanks to a pre-planned meet-up by the Great Autos of Yesteryear car club.
About 10 car owners and friends showed up to socialize beforehand and then view the movie, My Spy, a light-hearted farce where a CIA agent gets co-opted by a 9-year-old girl. We were able to bring our own food but the refreshment stand also was open along with spotless restrooms with limited access as a concession to COVID-19.
The car club folks brought several vintage period-correct cars that could have cruised right out of the movie Grease including Jerry Garvin’s 1948 Packard convertible and Mark Tracy’s 1955 Buick Century hardtop. A 1970s-era Cadillac and a Mercedes roadster were in the mix. All-in-all, thanks Jerry, it was a great social distancing event!
Attendance was limited to 50% of capacity due to the virus so every other space was left vacant but by showtime around 8:30 p.m. all available were full. The limitation was a double bonus for the car clubbers, as it allowed lots of room for picture-taking and eliminated the likelihood of door dings.
Admission has gone up to $10 each, but those nasty posts holding the old bulky and raspy (usually broken) speakers we remember are a thing of the past. The movie sound was broadcast over an FM radio frequency and it worked like a charm. Also new for 2020 was a provision for SUVs to back in to the spaces and moviegoers to open their rear hatches for better viewing.
But some things never change. While improvements certainly have been made since those impossibly dull drive-in screens from the ’50s, there is just no substitute for the highly reflective viewing surfaces in today’s indoor movie palaces.
Now if they would just bring back Buck Night…