As a Brit we don’t really see many outdoor cinemas. In fact if you don’t live in the big cities like London or Nottingham (which I don’t) then you may never find a drive in cinema.
In recent years I’ve spotted more and more of them in the US and was curious to try the experience. Until now outdoor movie theatres were just something I saw on American TV programmes or films. I always saw it as something which was part of American culture.
I was aware of a place near the Robinson Township of Pittsburgh which had a cinema drive in. I’d often pass it yet the movie timings never quite fitted into my travel plans. They tended to have screenings at weekends which is when I often travel.
This time though it was different. The outdoor village movie theatre was screening 7 days a week during the summer. They had 4 of the latest cinema releases so why not make the most of it and cash in.
I managed to do some research by going online. The drive in cinema I’d go to was the Twin Hiway Drive In. They had the film listings and timings but I couldn’t buy movie tickets online. Not to worry I’d just get there early. Gates opened at 8pm for a 9:15 screening.
Arriving at the drive in cinema
I pulled up in my hire car at around 8:30pm. It wasn’t too crowded at the gate yet inside there were already quite a few families getting set up for the show.
You may well wonder how much are movie tickets for an outdoor cinema, well it was $6.50 per person which I thought was pretty reasonable. You’d certainly pay more for an indoor cinema in the UK.
I pulled the car around to face the big white brick wall which was to be the big movie screen.
There are 2 projectors at the venue with films on the big screen beginning just after 9pm. I opted for “How to train your dragon 2”. No special reason to choose this film other than it was a title I recognised. Other than that I knew next to nothing about it. I was here for the whole outdoor movie theatre experience rather than a specific film.
People were already pitched up. Many had brought camping chairs and opted to sit outside rather than in the car. This wasn’t really an option for me since I was a traveller in a hire car. Mind you I thought the whole point of going to a drive in cinema was to stay in your car?
Restrictions at the cinema
No food or drinks were allowed to be brought on site, I’m not sure how they’d control that one. There was a brick building in the middle of the field which provided a refreshment shop and toilets. Popcorn and carbonated drinks were the standard fare although you could get one free refill with your drink.
Clearly this was a “family film” so lots of kids were present looking for sweets and drinks.
Late screening at the drive in cinema
We waited for the sun to set. It was actually the summer solstice so it took a while. Yet as we hit 9:15 we were firmly in dusk territory. Yet still we waited. More people started driving in, last minute arrivals.
I’ve never really noticed indoor movie theatres holding the screening of a movie for late arrivals so it seemed a bit strange if this is what was happening here.
Eventually the films on both screens began at 9:30. It was dark enough and we could really see the pictures clearly.
The sound for the film is broadcast via a fm radio signal. We were supposed to tune our car radios to 100.1 FM. As it was a warm evening I just rolled down my car window and could hear everybody else’s radio. There seemed little point switching my car radio on so I didn’t bother.
It was certainly a novel experience and the ability to recline your car seat as far as you wished was a big plus over being in the cinema indoors.
On the downside, if you needed a toilet stop, which thankfully I didn’t then you’d definitely need a torch to find your way there. You might also block the view of quite a lot of people, especially if you can’t find your car on the way back!
Another plus was that as soon as the film was over I was able to switch on the ignition and make a quick getaway Bo Duke style. None of this messing around waiting to get out of the auditorium and then queuing to get to the car park.
As for the film, it wasn’t quite my thing. It was okay, easy viewing but far from memorable.
Overall I managed to get the drive in cinema experience I was after and I enjoyed it. I’d happily do it again but I may be a little more selective over the film I choose to see.