One of my fondest memories as a child revolves around
playing in a rusty playground jungle gym in the dead of autumn surrounded by
three huge movie screens, hundreds of people walking around, carrying popcorn,
soda and chocolate and cars as far as the eye can see waiting for the show to
Sure, the food was horrible, weather freezing and view
obstructed at best, but I look back at my time spent at the 400 Drive-In and
smile without hesitation.
Drive-Ins are no longer a dying breed as some have
said. They’re pretty much dead. They were prominent entertainment fixtures
throughout the 1950’s and 60’s and slowly declined in popularity near the end
of the 1980’s. Any self-respecting film aficionado
will understand the importance of drive-ins in regards to how we see and watch
I’ve only been to the drive-in twice in my life (and both
times I was still in my early years of grade school), but I remember those
nights as if they happened yesterday.
The 400 Drive-In was situated between two of Toronto’s busiest highways,
so there was always life speeding past the movie screens at a thunderous
pace. To some, that would be an
inconvenience, but to others it just added to the fun.
In many ways, it is imperfections like that which make a moviegoing
experience memorable. The jittery movie
projector, just about ready to burn the reel to a crisp. The discolored movie screen showing its age
and peeling at every corner. The family
with the car in the front row who left their headlights on, thus bathing the
bottom of the screen with their highbeams.
People sticking their heads out of their cars and booing or cheering
depending on how they felt about a particular scene. The stale popcorn and flat soda. These are moments in time that can never be
Nowadays, I think we’re too spoiled as an audience. DVD and Blu-Ray have changed the way we watch
movies and where we see them. True, you
can argue that VHS began to slowly kill drive-ins, but high resolution home
entertainment systems proved to be the death blow. Today, we don’t have the opportunity to
choose how we want to watch a film.
Would I want to watch Close Encounters of the Third Kind on my
television set or outdoors on a big screen in the dead of night? I think the question answers itself.
I accept the fact that times (and technology) change, but
that doesn’t mean we should be given less of a choice than what we started out
with. The way in which we watch films is just as
important as the film itself. It breaks
my heart to realize that there are a handful of people that I know who haven’t
had a true drive-in experience.
If there is a drive-in close to where you live, I highly,
highly recommend you catch a flick over there.
Not only will it supply you with life-long memories, but it’s also great
to experience something that is, in many ways, an extinct historical
landmark. The reason I say this is
because, in another ten years, the drive-in will be but a memory. I hope I’m wrong.
The last great memory I have of the now defunct 400 Drive-In
took place during the night of June 23rd, 1989. I was heading home after my last day of
school and was met with hordes of cars stuck in a traffic jam. Tim Burton’s Batman had opened that day and
was playing on every screen at the drive-in.
It was so busy that the highways and surrounding streets were forced to
close due to the sheer volume of cars waiting to enter the drive-in and
clogging up the roads.
While I was most certainly cursing the traffic jam that
night, I smile about it now, knowing that I will never witness such a sight