Drive-in down mem­ory lane

Book a thor­ough ex­am­i­na­tion of drive-in movie cul­ture


Spe­cial to the Whig

Twenty years ago, I re­mem­ber go­ing to Ben­gies Drive-In Theatre in Bal­ti­more.

It was 1996 and their 40th sum­mer in op­er­a­tion. I re­mem­ber ar­gu­ing with my par­ents about how I would pay them back for an over­priced root beer float and su­per pret­zel. I re­mem­ber watch­ing “Twis­ter,” “Space Jam,” “The Nutty Pro­fes­sor” and “Ju­manji.” And I’m glad that de­spite the hur­ried rise and shocking fall of this Amer­i­can- born road­side at­trac­tion, some drive- ins have sur­vived.

“Drive- In The­aters: A His­tory From Their In­cep­tion in 1933” is a dry but thor­ough ex­am­i­na­tion of an of­ten over­looked time in the mid20th cen­tury. Author Kerry Se­grave re­calls the busi­ness, pol­i­tics and econ­omy which made the drive- in movie- go­ing ex­per­i­ment pos­si­ble in the first place.

With a metic­u­lous­ness ex­pected from an aca­demic, Se­grave il­lus­trates how the suburbs and the au­to­mo­bile of the post­war ‘50s laid the ground work for out­door the­aters we now look back on with fond nos­tal­gia. Who doesn’t at least re­mem­ber the scene from “Grease”?

The re­search that went into this book is deep in scope and in­cludes the le­gal bat­tles with stu­dios and dis­trib­u­tors. The text treads lightly on the ex­pe­ri­ence of ac­tu­ally go­ing to the drive- in the­ater, serv­ing more as a doc­u­ment of the facts and his­toric records of the time.

This is an au­thor­i­ta­tive, de­tailed and ac­cu­rate ac­count for a film en­thu­si­ast or his­tory buff. In­cluded here are food prices, cen­sus data, ar­chi­tec­tural records and fi­nan­cial in­sights.

Love movies? His­tory? Drive-ins? Author and his­to­rian Ed Okonow­icz will be hold­ing a pro­gram en­ti­tled “Re­mem­ber­ing Nights at the DriveIn” at the North East Branch next Mon­day at 6:30pm. Okonow­icz will share pic­tures and sto­ries, ex­am­in­ing the rise and de­cline of the road­side at­trac­tion. See you then!

For more in­for­ma­tion and ti­tle avail­abil­ity and read­ing rec­om­men­da­tions, visit www.ce­ or stop by any branch. Matt Lowder can be reached at mlow­der@cc­

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