The drive-in movie is a classic characteristic of Americana. The bright neon signs, white projector screens and cars parked bumper to bumper all contribute to the image of the quintessential drive-in theater. Over the past 50 years or so, drive-in movies have been slowly replaced by the exceedingly prevalent sit-down movie theater, though.
However, drive-ins have slowly begun to grow again as COVID-19 keeps the general population out of movie theaters and away from indoor group settings. This type of theater keeps families and small groups together in their cars, isolated from others while still being present for a large event each night.
About a 30 minute drive from campus, the Aut-O-Rama Twin Drive-In creates a pathway to the past, appearing between train tracks and the highway. As the sun starts to set before a 9:00 p.m. showing, advertisements from the time the theater was built play on the screen and can be heard through the radio station in every car.
Established in 1965, the Aut-O-Rama shows movies everyday of the week from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Four movies are played each night on two different screens, with one ten dollar ticket including admission to one screen for the entire evening. Due to the ongoing pandemic, though, the theater requires face masks at the box office, concession stand and restrooms. Cars are also directed to park a minimum of six feet apart to maintain social distance as concessions are purchased.
This past weekend, Screen #2 played the 1986 film “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” a time-honored classic about a high school senior and his friends having one last “ditch-day” around Chicago while being chased down by their determined high school dean. Lip-syncing The Beatles’ “Twist and Shout” in a parade down Dearborn Street while playing hooky, Ferris creates an action packed celebration of his final day of freedom.
However, in an ironic twist, most everyone currently dreams of sitting in a classroom instead of staring at a screen all day.
The flurry of students heading to class in the morning, lunch with friends in the afternoon and the late night study sessions at Kelvin Smith Library will no longer be part of the everyday routine of a Case Western Reserve University student.
As first-year students checked-in this past week, they began a college experience unique to their class. Many seniors have also moved back to campus, hoping to make the most of their final year before graduation in the spring.
Drive-in theaters are just one example of how we can all be together, yet far enough away from one another to be safe. The 2020 back-to-school experience will likely be the only one of its kind, but whether being together for you looks like a Netflix Party on Zoom with friends or a late night walk to Mitchell’s from your dorm, this year will go by faster than ever. Or, perhaps, you will even find yourself settling in on a Saturday evening to watch a movie at a drive-in theater.
In the words of Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”