Skip to main content

Drive-In Dreams

Remember that little slice of Americana called the drive-in? Well it’s not dead yet.
  • Author:
  • Updated:

Guest Post from Ellen Simon Pifer:

He outstretched his arm, all clever-like, feigning a big ole stretch and repositioned it around her shoulder. She smiled and nudged closer into the crook of his arm as they watched the movie dance past their windshield.

Remember that little slice of Americana called the drive-in? Well it’s not dead yet.

It’s been at least 25 years since I went to a drive-in movie theater. I recall those trips were all about finding a safe place to “get busy” in the back seat of a very spacious white-leather interior/red-cherry exterior, Oldsmobile Delta 88.

Well the drive-in isn’t just for James Dean and Sandra Dee. Last night me and my puerile posse packed up an SUV full of blankets, pillows, whoopers and chips and headed to the drive-in movie theater just 15 minutes from my Cali-home. The line of cars waiting to get in was impressive. Apparently, the drive-in is still very much alive and kicking.

A little research taught me that drive-in popularity peaked in the late 1950s with there being a high of 4063 drive in theaters. Now there are only about 377 nationwide (18 of those in California.) This drive-in was not exactly as I remembered them. Rather than the one mammoth screen, this parking lot was now packed (like so many theaters) with six more modest screens arranged in a crescent shape. We paid a very reasonable $10 for the carload and pulled in by our assigned screen, setting our radio to the movie’s station. The films were projected from a round building in the back of the lot that also housed the concessions (a perfect name for all indulgences sugary and buttery that temporarily silence children.)

Scroll to Continue

Recommended for You

This was starting to feel familiar. I loaded the kids up on the roof rack (oh, on how many long car rides have I dreamed of doing that?) They mounted the pile Iwo Jima style, my eldest victoriously planting the bag of Tostitos in his lap and settled in for their first drive-in experience.

“This is so cool Mom, thanks for bringing us!” I heard from above.

There was no room for me on the roof. And so, I huddled in my chaste car catching wanton glimpses of the couple in the pick-up beside me. Thinking, “Damn, I miss those days of the Delta 88.”

See if there is a drive-in near you –visit and search for your state.


Ellen Simon Pifer is a writer, advertising guru, somewhat ashamed reality TV junkie, internet addict, mom to three amazing boys, and most recently a professional tequila taster (those last two being on occasion causal). She is a graduate of the The Johns Hopkins University writing program and a lifelong East Coaster who is now learning 101 things to do with an avocado and how to adapt to constant sunshine in California.

You can read more from Ellen on her blog, Resplendent Quill.


MamaVoices: Summer Movie Season

Summer movie season is officially upon us. We’ve asked some of our fearless film lovers about their favorite movies… and their answers made me want to break out the buttered popcorn. Happy Summer Movie Season!

Two Thumbs Up for ‘Motherhood’

Last night was the first time I had ever gone to the cinema by myself. Ironically, the movie was about moms who can’t catch a quiet moment for themselves.

Twittermoms profile pic

Tweeting a Dream

Its starts the same way for so many mamas - Megan wanted to support her family while staying at home with her children. When the social networking website, Twitter, took her life by storm she was inspired to start TwitterMoms.


Returning to a dream.

After a 10 year break, musician Diane French, returned to making music. Learn how this insightful mom found her way back to her calling in our latest Dream Big profile.

CC  Lynn with Kits

Conservationist’s Dream

Kids Konserve co-founders Lynn Julian and Chance Claxton came together to create a company that answers the call to reduce waste in our children’s schools. See how they came together to dream big.


What was my big dream?

Beth is co-founder of Role Mommy, Vice President of the CBS Communications Group, and a TodaysMama author.


Dreaming for Others

Raised with a passion for volunteering, Jyl launched Mom It Forward, an organization devoted to harnessing social networking tools to make an impact on the lives of women across the globe.