Mid The Turmoil: Confessions of a drive-in movie buff

By on March 21, 2018

Those who know me, know how much I love Lititz.

But as surprising as it sounds, I also enjoy many other things in life. For example, I would bet that most people wouldn’t guess that my minor in college was theatre. And although I have never really done anything with that discipline, perhaps one day I will. Despite never acting onstage, I still have a passion for live theatre, and try to attend as many local productions as I can.

Over the past five years or so, I’ve also developed a love for going to the movies. Perhaps it’s my affection for antiques, but I love discovering old theatres around Pennsylvania. Give me a small red velvet-covered fold down seat that’s way too small any day over Netflix. Heck, I’ll even take split and leaking walls and sticky floors over the comfort of a reclining chair.

Yet another one of my great joys in life is to spend summer evenings at drive-in movie theatres. While many of you might think that they have all disappeared from our nation’s landscape (the county’s last one closed in 2005), you might be surprised to know that there are three that remain within about an hour’s drive of Lancaster. Reaching a little further geographically, one will discover about nine to choose from within a three-hour drive.

Although I didn’t grow up going to drive-ins, I was introduced to them about five years ago by a co-worker of mine. Born and raised in the Lehigh Valley, he bragged about having several within a few miles of where he lived. His stories inspired me to learn more; and before I knew it, I was busy planning a unique summer adventure I wouldn’t soon forget. The plan was simple: visit 10 different drive-ins across two states, all between May and September.

As those that know will tell you, half of the fun of attending a drive-in is the atmosphere. Like the Lititz Craft Show or spending the day at a music festival, one needs to arrive hours early and stay all day (in this case, night) to take it all in. Once there, you’ll meet a cast of characters from all across humanity: families stuffed into a station wagon, nervous couples on their first date, film buffs, teens borrowing their parents car for the very first time, and those longing for nostalgia, hoping to recapture a tiny piece of their youth. As all of them will tell you, there’s just something magical about watching a movie under the stars.

A few summers ago, I embarked on a unique road trip – I visited 10 different drive-ins across several states. Here I am at the Mahoning Drive In Theatre in Lehighton, PA.

It was quite the adventure as I trekked across Pennsylvania and Maryland, all on a quest to discover these unique pieces of Americana, now somewhat lost in today’s fast-paced digital world.
What a thrill it was for me to visit those drive-ins that summer: some with one screen, some with two, and even some with three. Several had digital projection and stereo sound, while one or two others deep in the Keystone State would have even made Fred Flinstone frown in disgust.

I loved it all, and I couldn’t get enough.

But whatever the conditions, it always proved to be a communal experience. A place where it’s okay to toss around a Frisbee or football, say hello to the neighboring cars next to you, and where going to the snack bar won’t break the bank, and nor will admission prices. Who can argue with seeing two first-run movies, all for just $10 per adult…sometimes less.

God bless the double feature.

As the sun goes down, drive-in enthusiasts settle in by tuning their car stereos or portable radios to the house FM frequency.

That summer, one particular memory stands out above the rest. During what was an especially hot August night, I attended a vintage horror triple feature show at the Pike Drive-In near Williamsport. Because the first flick never starts until the sun goes down (about 9 p.m.), I knew I was in for a long night. I ended up staying until the end of the third movie. By the time the credits rolled, it was 3 a.m. Cursing myself for not getting a hotel room for the night, I sheepishly started up the car and began to head home. Let’s just say it was a very long and tiring drive back to Lititz. While I admit that I don’t recall much of the actual commute, I remember witnessing a gorgeous morning sunrise as I traveled along Route 322 near Harrisburg. By this time it was about 5:30 a.m., but I had to laugh as I thought to myself that I was probably the only person on the road at that hour in Lancaster County that smelled like stale popcorn and fried food.

It was one of the best summers of my life.

Cory Van Brookhoven is a staff writer for the Lititz Record Express. He welcomes your comments at cvanbrookhoven@lnpnews.com or 717-721-4423. 


One Comment

  1. Ruth Cook

    February 24, 2019 at 11:30 am

    Hello Cory,
    How refreshing to read your article on the drive-inns, wow! it brought back so many memories. I always like the one in Lancaster, although I went to quite a few of them. Surely not as many as you. The Pike theater interests me. I know the name well. Is there any more info you can give me on it.
    thanks. God bless too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *