Nothing Says Summer Quite Like a Trip to the Drive-in

I have nine brothers and sisters and my dad used to have a woody Country Squire station wagon so in order to get the most moviegoing for the lowest price we used to hit the drive-in a lot. We kids particularly liked it because we could fall asleep in the back of the car if we didn't like what was on the screen and my parents got to see whatever they wanted without worrying about us getting cranky and restless. Of course we loved more than just being at the movies, we loved to lie on the grass and look up at the stars above and the twinkleflies and we liked to get up and run to the playground. Over time the drive-in sort of faded away until it seemed that they had gone the way of the five-cent cola, but there are still enough of them around to allow you to wallow in nostalgia and enjoy the company of people who dig the romance of the outdoor movies just as much as you do, all while seeing the latest extravaganza to roll out of Hollywood.

I'm going to give you some information about specific theaters but first a couple of rules that apply across the board.

Do get to the drive-in early. They're quite popular and it's not uncommon to see cars lining up along the road before the box office opens.

Be prepared to listen to the film a little differently than we did back in the day. You can now listen on the radio, whether that means on your car radio, a boom box, a handheld little transistor radio you bought from a vintage store or whatever you may have. Some theaters do still have the poles with the sound systems but it's best to be ready to listen on your car's FM dial.

Don't sit on the top of your car. It blocks the view of the people behind you and it makes the insurance companies that cover the theaters grouchy.

Do plan to be able to get out of your car and make a comfy spot with lawn chairs, blankets or what have you, but generally you can't sit next to your car because the space is for other cars to park. Sit in front of your car.

If you're driving a van or an SUV be prepared to park in the back because otherwise you’d block the view of everyone who drives a car.

Do be prepared for a fabulous, relaxing evening.

Up the road a piece from my house is a drive-in located in Baltimore, MD, called Bengies, now offering their fifty-first season of outdoor films. They offer double and triple features on the weekends; this week they're showing Over the Hedge, Lady in the Water and Click. But, wait there's more - they also show cartoons, intermission clips and old movie trailers. All of that for the price of eight dollars per person, with children 11 and under getting in for free. That's a lot of entertainment for one price and one evening but you can go for even less if you play your cards right. Sunday nights are historic nights and you get in for free if you're driving a registered historic vehicle. If you yearn for the days when you and your chums jammed each other in the car and let each other out of the trunk after the film started you'll appreciate Tuesdays, which are called Pack-A-Car Bargain Night. Stuff your car and get in for the price of two admissions.

The Starlight Six in Atlanta, GA, is a, wait for it, six screen drive-in that's been around since 1949. They have double features on all six screens and the cost is six dollars per person with children under ten free. Saturdays the theater magically morphs into a flea market and Labor Day weekend brings a spectacular event called the Drive Invasion, featuring a ton of movies and bands, including Blue Oyster Cult and Godzilla as he was meant to be seen, mainly stomping around in front of you looking like he's going to crush your car.

Wichita, KS is home to another Starlite, only with different spelling. This family oriented drive-in charges 8 dollars for anyone over the age 11, children 7 - 11 are one dollar and the youngest kids are free. They have two screens and run triple features on Friday and Saturday nights with double features every other night. The word on the web is that the snack bar is very clean and the food is excellent. The theater is recommended over and over again as a terrific place to take your kids for a great night out.

If you're a fan of Tiki kitsch and are looking to combine the best of two worlds you'll want to head over to the Mission Tiki Drive-in found in Montclair, CA. This four-screen theater is getting ready for a fabulous Tiki Invasion scheduled for August 5th. There will be vendors selling all things Tiki, there will be bands, Polynesian fire dancers, Hula dancers and a burlesque review. There will be a hot rod car show and plenty of great food and of course, B movies, specifically Cobra Woman, The Creeping Flesh and Hard Ticket to Hawaii. It already sounds too good to be true but really there is even more, King Kukulele will be one of the emcees. Will he play his ukulele? I can think of only one good way to find out.

I thought it would be nearly impossible to top the Tiki drive-in but the Transit Drive-in situated in Lockport, NY, offers free wi-fi and suggests you bring your laptop! Just think, if you're at Niagara Falls having a traditional honeymoon you can zoom over to the Transit, catch some movies while you make out in the front seat of your car and then you can blog about it. That's living in the 21st century. The Transit also has a miniature golf course so you can get a quick game in before you watch your double feature on one of four screens.

This week we have a one-sentence review from Paul Muolo, writer of the essential gossip column, What We're Hearing. He reviews last week's Quality Time and has this to say, "The jack-booted thug who rules the 'Grapevine' with an iron fist (and baseball bat) has done it again with another thought provoking column about the entertainment industry that will take your mind off your whiny mortgage customers, the RESPA police, early payment defaults, and inverse floaters!" Have you got a one-sentence review you’d like to submit to Quality Time? Send it in to me at and I'll run the best ones. You may focus on just about anything that fits a family entertainment format; games, movies, books, music - the sky is the limit.