Q1: Why do you think people choose to view movies at the drive-ins rather than an indoor shopping plaza cinema?
I think it’s all about privacy. People who like talking loudly to their friends while others are trying to listen, or answering their phone and continuing a long conversation while others are trying to watch, these things can be avoided in the comfort of your own car. Then you get to have the experience of a cinema outing and the only person you annoy is yourself!
Q2: Have you noticed any changes/ technical advancements in the way drive-ins operate since you have worked in the industry?
Yes. Probably the most obvious one was the use of the bulky speakers which were usually broken and let in the cold air in winter, that have been replaced by tuning into the radio. Another is the use of mobile phones! Customers are able to text their order to the candy bar and have it delivered to their vehicle instead of having to get out, make sure their car was secure and venture to the candybar booth.
Q3: What do you think makes drive-ins so special? (particularly for couples)
For me, it’s the old-fashioned nature of it all. It always seems to be so romantic. And what could be more romantic than the three most lovely things combined: snuggling up beneath a blanket, stargazing and watching a good film.
NAME: Sandra McKie
As a young adult I would often go to the drive-in at Thomaston, where I lived with my friends, we would take several cars and park next to each other. I remember driving over the gravel mounds where the speakers are set higher so that your car tilts up towards the screen.
We would go into the snack bar and take the food back to our cars. In summer the movies started really late because they had to wait until it got dark to start. In winter the windscreen would keep fogging up as it was freezing because you had to leave the gap in the window where the speaker hung.
We were so upset when they closed it as the government bought the land to build the ring road.
Pulling up to the drive in was surreal, like taking a trip back in time. The cinema had a driveway and what looked like a toll gate with a car stuck on the roof. The employees were all dressed as though they were stuck in the 70’s and came to your car, with a smile, so you could buy your tickets. I wasn’t sure what the protocol was, but I can recall being told that my movie was playing on screen 3, and being given a frequency ticket explaining how to listen to the movie. I tuned my radio immediately and remember hearing really old music, songs I wasn’t familiar with.
Rather than the conventional finding of a seat I was then required to find a park. The ground was all undulated as to create an angle so that no car in front would become an aesthetic obstruction and there were strange poles to either side of the car I can only assume had been there for decades, relics of the sound system of old I can only assume.
I remember when I was finally parked, my instincts came over me and I automatically checked my phone was on silent and stopped talking only to realize a few seconds later it was completely unnecessary, I was going to be watching the movie from my own personal space and I could do whatever I want.
Once settled I figured the next step was to get popcorn and a drink. So I started towards what I thought was obviously the “candy bar”. Turns out it was like a 70’s style restaurant with checker plate tiles and arcade games. The waitresses were old, they had probably been working the same job since the place opened so many decades ago and I found it hard to believe they ever changed their uniform.
I returned to my car and the atmosphere was unlike anything I had experienced before. People were everywhere and the same music was playing loudly from all the surrounding cars. People were sitting in Ute trays, in the back of 4wd’s with the back doors open and on camping chairs with fold out tables all their to watch the same film.
I can’t remember what the movie was but sure enough it came to an end, all the cars simultaneously started up in a mad rush to not be inconvenienced by the possible 5 minute delay in exiting the movies. Many cars stuttering as the batteries struggled to hold up. So when the movie was finally over, we just simply drove back to the 21st century.
Photographs have been taken at the Coburg drive-in location.
Photographer: Megan Scollo