One of those nostalgic activities we like to participate in is going to a drive-in movie theater.  

A Drive-in Marquee. Picture by Earl 35.


Yes, they used to be plentiful and nearly every small town had one. It has a Norman Rockwell feel to it. In the 50s and 60s that is where you went on a date. But something happened to the industry in the late 70s and 80s. The land became more valuable for development and people were not going to as many drive-ins.  

A few have remained that have become classic venues. How do they do it?  

My personal experience is that the great drive-ins treat their customers right by having green areas for play before the movie, concession stands that do not over price you to death and security that makes their presence known without bullying. It is not rocket science. Treat the paying customers right and they will come back!  

We went to the Harvest Moon Twin Cinema located in Gibson City, Illinois. We like going there and have recommended it for years to friends. We even saw one of my daughter’s girlfriends there with her family. So Sara watched the movie from their car and visited with her friend at the same time.  

This was a special double-feature weekend. Screen One was showing The Prince of Persia and Robin Hood. Screen Two was showing Shrek 4 and Iron Man 2. We went for Shrek and Iron Man. Who can resist a Scottish Ogre and Robert Downey Jr.?  

Take a ball or a frisbee for the green area. Picture by Solicity


The movies were good but the experience was better. We had a family Frisbee game in the green area and had to avoid the football throwers. There was a sandwich run to the concession stand and fresh melon in the cooler. We sat in our chairs and watched the movie in all the comfort we could want. Our youngest rolled himself up in a blanket on the ground during the first movie. Later, he sat on my lap.  

On the way out we threw our garbage bag (given to us at the entrance) on the semi trailer that had a target sign. My 13-year-old missed with the two bags we had but they landed on the trailer. And yes, there were mosquitoes but we sprayed ourselves with poison to keep them at bay.  

I appreciate that this owner makes us clean up after ourselves. I love his merry-go-round that comes from the 1940s. The bathrooms need to be modernized but that is for the future.  

What I hope is that the company keeps going so that when I have grandchildren, I can take them to experience watching movies with no air conditioning, plenty of bugs and the chance we will have to run into the car because of rain. Not that it will stop the movie from playing because it won’t.  

Looking for a drive-in near you? Try this website  

Share your favorite drive-in movie memories in the comment section.  

Karyn Bowman lives in Kankakee County with her outdoor writer husband and four children. Become friends with Karyn on Facebook.