Safely enjoy movies under the stars

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Kaelyn Savard

While the existence of drive-in theaters seemed to be on the brink of extinction, the hit of COVID-19 allowed this tradition to make a comeback, providing its viewers with the necessary activity to escape, and enjoy the simple things, even in the amidst of the pandemic.

Isabella Fortunati and Jonah Billings

As the sun sets on a gorgeous fall evening in Goleta, California, you spread out some blankets in the back of your car and prepare to enjoy a movie night under the stars. Around you, people laugh and chat from the safety of their cars and the smell of buttered popcorn fills the air. Over the course of the COVID shutdown, many people have discovered the age-old American experience of a drive-in movie for the first time. This classic activity, enjoyable in any normal circumstance, has become even more so in the time of the pandemic, when entertainment is scarce. 

Drive-in movie theaters have been a part of American culture for almost a century. In 1933, an auto parts salesman named Richard Hollingshead opened the first drive-in in Camden, New Jersey. By 1958, there were over 4,000 drive-ins scattered across America. The success of the drive-in, however, could not last. As the 20th century wore to a close, drive-ins found themselves struggling to pay for the large chunks of land needed to run them. Indoor theaters offered more flexibility and could schedule many shows per day. There are only about 400 drive-ins left in America, but that number is sadly going down each year. However, a few of these classic venues can still be enjoyed locally here in Ventura.

Would you consider attending a Drive-in theater?

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The two most prominent and closest drive-in theaters are Concerts/Movies in your Car at the Ventura Fairgrounds and the West-Wind Drive-In in Goleta.

Concerts/ Movies in your Car is an organization that hosts drive-in movies and live concerts from the comfort of your car in Arizona, San Diego and Ventura. There is a mix of G to R rated movies presented throughout the week, at a price of $29 per car. They also have live concerts that can be run safely and provide pleasurable entertainment. For the holidays, the Ventura Concerts/ Movies in your car will have a light show from Nov. 22 through Jan. 2 to enjoy the holidays with your friends and family safe and sound.

West-Wind Drive-In is an outdoor theater located in Goleta, just past Santa Barbara. The general admission is $8.75, $2 for children ages 5 through 11 and free for children under 4. The West-Wind Drive-In provides a snack bar where you can purchase popcorn, candy and many other traditional movie-theater foods. The drive-in plays one to three movies per night, and once you pay, you can stay for all three!

I attended the West-Wind Drive-In for the movie “Toy Story” with my family and adored the experience! Before we went to the theater, we got sushi to eat in the car while we enjoyed our movie. The area of the theater is spacious and concealed from the outside world.  You use your car radio to connect to the movie speaker, and the audio was very smooth. Everyone was very respectful of other people’s space and wore masks and went outside. The environment was welcoming and incredible. The snack provided had delicious movie popcorn and delectable slushies for everyone to enjoy. After “Toy Story,” my family stayed for “Man of Steel” since we were so fond of the first one. I would definitely go again and feel the experience was a great bonding experience for my family and I!

While COVID may have taken away many entertaining experiences for our community, drive-in movie theaters are a wonderful way to fill the void. Although they are almost a century old, it seems as if they were created with the intent of providing socially-distanced, outdoor fun for all to enjoy. While the future for these authentic slices of americana is uncertain, I urge you to go experience them now, because there is no better time. Maybe you, like me and many others, will find a movie night under the stars to be the perfect escape from the craziness of 2020.

What do you think?