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Welcome From The Chief Editor

Not everything that has come out of the coronavirus pandemic has necessarily been negative. Even in areas where lockdowns and isolation have closed restaurants, bars, indoor movie theaters, and other "non-essential" businesses, it has given new life and a resurgence to other business models that were well on their way to extinction.

I'm talking about drive-in movie theaters. Originally started in Camden, NJ in 1933, they exploded in popularity during the post-WWII years. Then, in the 1950s and 1960s, they peaked at over 4,000 drive-in theaters in the U.S. alone, and some estimates were over 5,000 worldwide. Drive-in movies have also served as a backdrop for scenes in such blockbuster movies, such as Grease and Twister.

Then came along cable TV and the popularity of home video, first on VHS tapes, and later on DVD. Never mind streaming. That hadn't even been thought of up until that point. The first two were enough, coupled with changing lifestyles, to kill off the vast majority of drive-in theaters.

According to, there are approximately 330 drive-in theaters remaining in operation today. The vast majority of those are in the United States, with Canada having about 40 or so drive-in theaters left, and Australia with 16 remaining. There are a few scattered about Europe, Asia and South America. There are even some new drive-in theaters being planned for, which could result in the first net gain in drive-in theaters in many, many years.

With the need to maintain social distancing while seeking entertainment during the pandemic, drive-in movie theaters have proven their ability to allow consumers access to the entertainment choices they want, from the comfort of their cars. It allows patrons to maintain the precious social distancing that many governing bodies swear is necessary to stop the spread of the coronavirus. As a result, they have been popping up in scattered European cities last summer during the height of the pandemic lockdown. Impromptu drive-in theaters have also been popping up in such places as Walmart parking lots, as many seek entertainment while being able to maintain that social distancing.

I have a special love and attraction to drive-in theaters. Some of my earliest memories involve the family piling into the car and heading to the drive-in theater. There were five drive-in theaters in the city where we grew up, with the closest one less than a mile away. As kids, we would play on the playground before the show and during intermission (between movies), eat popcorn and candy, and drink Vess soda pop. At some point, all of us kids would fall asleep in the backseat of the car, with our next memories being either our parents carrying us to our bed, or waking up in our bed, unsure of how we got there.

Then, I started working at one of the drive-in theaters in town when I was 13 years and nine months old. I worked through the summer on what they called the "day crew." Our responsibility was to clean up the drive-in parking lot and restrooms for the new batch of customers who would show up that night. After working on the day crew for a couple of years, I moved to working in the concession stand during the night. I also was the "marquee guy" who maintained and changed the weekly-changing theater marquee at the drive-in theater entrance. I worked at this job until I was 17 years old.

As you might imagine, the drive-in theater is pivotal in many of my earliest memories. Working at the drive-in theaters, there were many memories that had the drive-in theater as a central theme. But, like with much of the rest of the population, I drifted away from the drive-in theater and sought cable and movie rentals to fill the space in my life once occupied by the drive-in theater.

Fast-forward to 2021, and I am fortunate enough to have at least two drive-in theaters remaining in operation within an hour's drive of me. So, we popped up a couple of batches of popcorn (none of that microwave stuff ... it had to rival movie theater popcorn!), packed some drinks, loaded up the blankets, and headed off to the drive-in theater that's located in the city where I live. We arrived in less than 30 minutes, and we sat in the back of dad's pickup truck. The kids laid on their sleeping bags in the back of the truck with the tailgate down, and mom and dad sat in camping chairs in the back of the truck. The kids got to watch the new Tom & Jerry movie, followed by Goonies, from the back of dad's pickup truck. The sound was broadcast over the FM radio band, played on a couple of portable radios we had brought along. That was a huge improvement over the solitary, tinny-sounding, monaural speaker that we used to hang on the edge of our car windows in the drive-in theater heydays!

The memories it elicited came flooding back to me. The sounds. The smells. The atmosphere. The dust. The same idiots driving through the parking lot after dark with their lights on. None of it had changed. And I was excited to share the experience with my own children, 50-plus years after my parents had shared that experience with me.

Until next month, I bid you peace, happiness, serenity, and prosperity! And, if you get the chance, go catch a movie at a drive-in theater!


This month's cover, "enhanced" by Meemaw, celebrates the running of the Kentucky Derby. The Kentucky Derby is the premiere horse race in the United States, and kicks off the horse racing season in the U.S.

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