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Movies Without A Mask

Cleaning the windshield before you headed off to the movies was wasted time, especially during the summer months when flying insects by the hundreds couldn’t seem to get out of your way as you drove to the theater. Once parked there, you’d just have to wash the glass off again. Real movie aficionados tucked service station-style squeegees in their cars for the job.

Drive-in theaters suddenly are the hot ticket for movie fans, because of COVID-19.

We have two, as far as I know, in this area: the Winter Drive-In at Wintersville and the Hilltop Drive-In at Chester. The Winter is open this weekend, with the Hilltop slated to open May 28.

Drive-in theaters are something like church services streamed over the internet. You don’t have to get dressed up. You can talk to those in the car with you, with no worry of the fellow in front of you turning around to shush you.

There was one hazard during the heyday of drive-in theaters, though: When the showing, usually two movies, was over, you had to remember to take put the speaker back on its stand. Now, drive-ins broadcast movie soundtracks on low-power FM radio. Back then, you had to pull up beside a pole, take the speaker off it and hook it on your car window.

Forgetting as you were leaving that it was there could mean cracked window glass. At best, it meant the theater owner telling you how much you owed him as you handed him the speaker with some of the cord still attached.

Parking at a drive-in requires you to pay attention. You don’t want to be behind a pickup truck or SUV that blocks your view of the screen. And you need to place your front wheels just right on the hump in your parking space, so your windshield is pointed at the proper angle to the screen.

That itself could be a challenge, because it sometimes meant your car door was beside the speaker pole. That made exiting for a restroom run a bit difficult.

What, other than no-problem social distancing these days, is the attraction of a drive-in? Price, for one thing. For about what it costs to see one film at a sit-down theater — often less — you get two at the drive-in.

There’s the comfort factor, too. Chances are your car seats adjust. Often, you can bring your own snacks, though some drive-ins charge “food fees” for those doing so. Frankly, you feel more at home in your car at the drive-in — and you still get the big screen experience, with good sound.

Drive-ins have been in decline so long that many younger people have never been to one. Try it. You’ll like it.

And you won’t have to wear a mask.

Reach Myer at: mmyer@theintelligencer.net.

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