A current of anticipation ran through our time at Cedar Point on Saturday, as it was our plan to book it from the park that evening and make it to a nearby drive-in in time to see The Dark Knight. The closest one we found that was also in the right direction was 50 miles away, in Oregon, Ohio. At around 6:15pm, we calculated that we had just enough time to ride Millennium Force and get out of there by 7:30, giving us an hour to make it to the drive-in, where we’d hopefully arrive just as the box office was opening, since surely the movie would sell out in minutes.
Thanks to the vagaries of approximating roller coaster waiting times and parking lot distances, it was closer to 8:15 by the time we got on the highway. I was pretty sure we were now on a futile mission, but we went for it anyway. If it was sold out, we’d have an opportunity to explore the Saturday night offerings in Oregon. To our surprise, the lot was barely half-full as we rolled in about 20 minutes to showtime, and we ended up finding a beautiful spot near the center, about four rows from the front, in which to park our car and get cozy.
Something about the whole drive-in gestalt really appeals to me. It must be something in my blood — my grandfather owned a drive-in theater when my mom was growing up. Yet we never went to drive-ins when I was growing up in the suburbs of Indianapolis, and living now in light-polluted Chicago, it’s difficult to drive out far enough to find one in operation. As such, this was the first drive-in experience for both of us.
Being a drive-in noob, I wasn’t sure exactly how one is meant to watch a movie from one’s car. Or more specifically, our car. I walked around and found a regular to ask how it’s meant to be done: do you sit in the front, or do you turn the car around and lounge in the back? I’d seen both. Our silver chariot, a Honda Fit, has magical transformative abilities, so I went back and played around with the configurations. For the duration of the trip, we had been driving with the passenger seat in its special recliner position — what we’ve dubbed “The Executive” — and I was pleased to find the driver’s seat adjusts in the exact same way. With a propped-up bin and sleeping bag at the back to lean against, we now had two custom movie-watching seats that offered enough space to lounge luxuriously and a perfect viewing angle of the screen. The only obstruction was that pesky rear-view mirror, which succumbed to a little pressure and popped right off. (Putting it back on the next day was a whole different adventure.)
I had been secretly planning this since I discovered our trip would coincide with the new Batman. The only way I could make up for missing it on opening weekend in IMAX would be to find it at a small-town drive-in. There were many unknowns and many ways it could have been ruined — noisy kids, lousy sound system, dirty projector — but it all came together beautifully. The movie: exhilarating, delivering on the anticipation and then some. It tapped directly into that vein that carries my fondness for the Dark Knight comic books I regularly read as
kid teenager. Set against the warm July night and the cozy, relaxing atmosphere, it easily counts as one of the highlights of the trip and certainly one of the best movie-going experiences of recent memory. Who needs the multiplex?