Tonight, am heading over to Grant Park to see the outdoor movie--Annie Hall this week. I'm always of mixed emotions regarding Woody Allen movies, find them funny and simultaneously a bit annoying most of the time, but it should be fun. Even though it gets me home way too late on a weeknight, it indulges my nostalgia for drive-ins.
My parent used to pack us all up with coolers and popcorn in big paper bags and ridiculous amounts of candy and head to one of the several Rockford Area drive-ins back in the late seventies/early eighties. I remember seeing so many movies like that--always falling asleep mid-way through the double feature. One summer, in Wisconsin, I remember being allowed to accompany my older teenage cousins to see Grease in the back of my grandmother's Suburban (a big deal since I was like 4) and conking out mid "Hopelessly Devoted To You" (why I always have trouble remembering what happens in the rest of the movie). Eventually, one by one they closed, though up through the mid-nineties, there was still the Belford at the east edge of town, where you could catch indoor flicks for $1.50, and the drive-in was open all summer. Of course, they ripped it down after I'd already moved here to put up the cold, sterile airport-like multiplex. Funny, but when I was in college, there were still a couple of trips with the whole family in tow. Sometimes, we'd all stay in the car with the windows down, those giant speakers perched on the edge of the window. When we were older, we'd set up camp in front of the car, spead out blankets and pillows and try not to get run over, eating enough jujubees to make us sick. Somehow it makes me sad that they're gone for the most part, and now the only place to go is those claustrophobic and usually freezing monstrosities, with some little bastard behind you kicking the seat.
There's this one near where my parents live that actually, at the time were going to drive-ins, had already been reinvented as a porno venue. Of course, all the snazzy new houses they were building, who had loved that they were in view of the screen when it was showing Hollywood stuff but understandably now not so much eventually had it shut down by zoning order. (Not to mention my old elementary school had a pretty good unobstructed view of the screen during the day.) What's weird is it's still there. Sort of. The ghost of it. Neighborhoods have went up all around the lot, but for years afterward, that screen was still there, looming up over the tops of trees. More and more delapidated, until it was nothing but the frame and strips of screen. The entry drive, fenced off, still sported the admission booths for a few years, their glass windows cracked and falling in on themselves, but eventually those were even gone, the gravel road grown over with trees, the land still for sale perpetually, even now I suppose, though I don't think the screen is still standing--winds having apparently knocked it in the last 5 years or so, I couldn't see it last time I drove by there. I was messing around on google maps, the satellite one, a while back, looking at my parent's house, my old school, and you could still see how the ground was carved in tiers, fan shaped, an opening in the trees.