MAY 21, 2014: TWILIGHT ZONE AT THE STARLIGHT ZONE–A VISIT TO AN AUTHENTIC DRIVE-IN THEATER

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Drive-in theaters have disappeared faster than AM radio stations and neither of them is very familiar to anyone born under the Gen Y-and younger generational banner.

 

Those of us from ancient times can clearly remember both the drive-in theater and Top 40 music on the AM dial.

 

There was always something special about the drive-in concept because it turned the car into a private booth for movies.

 

 

 

The drive-in theater was the cause of parenthood in some cases and later a competent baby-sitter for the new parents who were able to bring the kids along for a movie date after they had failed to watch the movie closely enough during an earlier drive-in date.

 

Eventually the drive-in theater fell victim to a variety of maladies such as VHS video machines that brought movies right into the home, daylight saving time that killed summer start times for much of North America, and even inflation where land prices outpaced the value of the drive-in business on the land.

 

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Suddenly the number of drive-in theaters left in the world plummeted to a point where they are largely found in the memories of nostalgic baby boomers who remember them very fondly from their childhood and young adult phases of life.

 

The default position is to create a portable drive-in theater experience, complete with an inflatable screen that is a scaled-down version of the real drive-in screen.

 

These portable screens are similar to the real deal in the same way a cover Doors band is similar to Jimmy Morrison.You cannot truly replace the real experience with either a plastic inflatable screen or copying the Lizard King.

 

 

The opportunity to see the Doors is now down to drummer John Densmore, but you can still go to an authentic drive-in if you want to travel out to Enderby, British Columbia Canada where the Starlight Drive-in has been around for decades.

 

The Starlight Drive-in is indeed the real thing, complete with a legacy that extends right back to the heyday of the drive-in movie phenomenon.

 

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The experience is like a ‘Twilight Zone’ episode where you can step back in time and soak up an experience exactly like the one offered to customers when station wagons, the Beatles, and leaded gasoline ruled the planet.

 

The Starlight experience includes vintage on-screen ads with animated food/beverage performers that sing and dance to 50s-style melodies.

 

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The Starlight has a big food area where people can buy the hot dogs and popcorn advertised on the screen.

 

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In fact the food building was very similar to the drive-in theaters from my own childhood and it felt as if I had actually stepped back in time when I visited the food counter.

 

The movie was a current blockbuster and the audience was largely a mix of young couples and families with the same reasons to be at the drive-in as their predecessors from the past.

 

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The young locals at the drive-in were lucky enough to experience something not readily available to their generational counterparts in the rest of the world.

 

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The place was packed-which meant the drive-in reached its 547 car capacity on a damp mid-May Saturday night.

 

I would like to personally thank the owners of the Starlight Drive-in because they provided a veritable trip down memory lane for this sentimental refugee from the baby boomer generation.

 

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Even the intermission 60s music over the radio provided by the Starlight was part of the atmosphere and nostalgia at their drive-in. As Bob Hope would say in song; thanks for the memories.

 

 

This experience was an enthusiastic thumbs-up.

 

Jim Sutherland

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