9pm: Throw the Family in the Bed of a Pickup for the Drive In Movies


When they talk about big screens at Best Buy, they’re missing the mark by about forty feet.

Long before 52 inch flat panels and those monstrosities people loved to watch the Superbowl on back in the 90s, drive in movie theaters were serving as family fun and teenage make out havens for decades. For some tragic reason of the evolution of America’s culture though, drive ins have become rarer every decade. You’d think a nation obsessed with it’s cars—so many of us with SUVs large enough to hold televisions—we’d love the idea of combining our automobiles with our screen time.

Drive in movies are mostly limited to the northeast these days. They’re often outdated. You’ll need a working radio, mp3 players and iPod docks need not apply. Their may be some mosquitos. But if you can get your hands on a pickup truck and a few camping chairs, well pack the family in, back the ol’ Dodge up and kick back for a double feature.

There are two options for drive in movie perusal in the area, though both are about an hour away from Ithaca itself. Aurora, a fairly large town near the northern tip of Lake Cayuga, is home to one. The other, which we visited, was in Elmira, about an hour west of Ithaca. The locals warned us that it is definitely not kosher to try and sneak in beers and plenty of kids have been busted trying to enjoy a toke or two of marijuana, but that’s why we’re featuring this as a family affair.

Your seats will be as comfortable as you bring them. Concessions are as available as any regular movie theater. Best of all, you get two movies for the price of one. And no, they’re not playing Back to the Future and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, it’s new releases all the way. Catch the Dark Knight Rises at 9, and Dark Shadows at 10, or Ice Age 4 followed by the Amazing Spiderman. Our family can’t quite handle four hours of movies straight, but yours may differ. Either way, you can sneak out between shows without bothering anyone if you’d like.

Drive in movies are quickly going the way of street cars and vinyl records. Sure, a few places around the country will always hold onto one or two, but as time goes on and you can download a movie and watch it in stunning 3×4 inch HD glory on your iPhone, so will these outdoor screens begin to decay and close up shop. Give your kids a chance to experience something they can say, “Hey remember when…” about that doesn’t involve connecting to the Internet. It just may prove to be one of those memories they’ll long to seek out for their own kids.