Charlottesville, VA: Outdoor Movies Great Update on Classic Drive-Ins

When one of my housemates mentioned a drive-in movie theater, all I could picture was John Travolta as Danny in Grease singing about how Sandy left him. Drive-in movie theaters are the type of thing my parents get nostalgic over, not a place I would hang out at today until I found out about the Goochland Drive-In Theater.

The theater, which opened at the end of August, was founded by a couple who wanted to bring back the glory days and enjoy a movie without having to find and pay for a babysitter for their children. It's a family-oriented place, and it's pretty cheap. We paid $7 a person for two back-to-back movies, and they weren't outdated, either the movies showing that weekend were The Time Traveler's Wife and The Proposal.

The lineup for the following weekend? District 9 and The Hangover. The gates (barrels of hay) opened at 6 p.m., but of course we were running late. I don't think we left Charlottesville until 6:45, and it was about 40 minutes away. We were sort of freaking out because we didn't know what time dusk and therefore the movie started.

Luckily, we got there with plenty of time before the first movie started and found plenty of places to park, though it was fairly crowded. That didn't matter though, because the actual movie screen is huge it's easily seen from behind the concession stand in the back, which is good for trucks and other large cars that are required to park there so they don't block other people's views. Snacks were really inexpensive as well.

A drink and popcorn combo was $2.50! I don't think I could buy a small box of Junior Mints for that at a regular theater. The movie-watching experience itself was just like any other, except I felt more like I was renting one and watching it in my (outdoor?) basement rather than going out to a theater.

You snuggle up under blankets, recline in folding chairs or relax in the back of your trunk right next to your friends, just like you would at home. People could easily talk without distracting others, or at least more so than they would in a regular movie theater, and you won't disrupt anyone if you get more food or go to the bathroom.

There were oodles of little kids running around in their pajamas during the first movie, but most of their parents could relax during the second movie, when the vast majority of children could be seen fast asleep in the back of cars (which was absolutely adorable).

My favorite part, though, had to be the clear night sky. You could see the Milky Way, and though The Time Traveler's Wife wasn't my favorite movie, I was easily distracted by the number of shooting stars I saw. One really bright one passed right by the screen, and everyone around me gasped it was incredible.

You do have to keep your car battery running throughout the movie to tune in to the radio station to hear the sound, which kind of worried my friend whose car we were using. And it got a lot colder than expected sitting on the ground for four hours at night will make a blanket wet regardless of whether it recently rained. And for the record, don't ever wear flip-flops to a drive-in.

I buried my feet under the blanket and they were still freezing by the end of the first movie, much less the second. I'm not really sure why drive-ins went out of style. They're cheap and fun, and it's a nice way to spend a Friday or Saturday night. If I'm willing to pay $10 to see just one movie, obviously I'd pay $7 to go see two. Even though there was nothing like the Sandy and Danny drama, I'd still say it was highly entertaining. Also, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is playing this week. Of course, I'm going back.

Leslie Keena


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