Watching ‘Grease’ at the drive-in reminded me how much I’d missed the cinema.
Until last summer, I’d never been to a drive-in. They were things of the past. The kind of thing you’d see in American movies like ‘Grease’ (1975) with John Travolta sat in his car with Olivia Newton John round his arm and sipping Coca Cola and crunching on popcorn. There was a mic stabbed into the side of the car for the sound and the weather was always so sunny. Perfect for American hotties then, but not so special for wet Brits in soggy East Midlands.
When we went last summer, we went to see ‘The Rocky Horror Show’. I was drooling like a hyperactive labrador over a woman dressed as Frankenfurter in tight shorts and skimpy cleavage. They were the real fans - there to celebrate the joys of the movies. Me and my dad in our casual tees and shorts were just everyday joes out of touch with movie culture.
Last time we went to Nightflix Drive-in Cinema at the Newark Showground, they were showing ‘Wonder Woman 1984’. This was at christmas when most places were locked down under the Tier system and Gal Gadot was only playing at select pockets across the country that were not affected by the restrictions. It was bloody cold - -1 and I bloody fell asleep. It had been a long Covid Christmas.
Drive-in cinemas were set to reopen on April 12th and so, me, my dad and my sister booked tickets to the original drive-in movie - ‘Grease’ (1975) - the movie that put drive-ins on the map. Watching a drive-in in a drive-in might as well be called “drive-inception”!
We emerged just as it was getting dark and some uniforms in high-vis vests escorted us to our “Bay Area” - the station of parking which was 4 cars back from the front screen. We were told to tune our radios to 87.70 FM. That’s how the sound works at these drive-ins - there’s no pod anymore that you have to attach to the side of your car. The joys of technology, eh?
I ordered a Coke Zero on my phone, but it wasn’t delivered to our car. I had to trudge up to the food booth and demand my coke - a bottle that is, not the powder. This was me in a slightly stoned state cos I had just taken my sleeping tablet Zopiclone which I have been prescribed for evenings.
Again, it was bloody cold, despite being spring. And I really felt the cold having lost some blubber around the middle section in recent months. I was just wearing a zip-up cardigan.
I wonder whether drive-ins will become the future of cinemas worldwide. They are certainly safer as your car creates a natural bubble for social distancing and it doesn’t stink of popcorn cos people keep their snacks to themselves. And you can’t get annoying audience members farting and playing on their phones. Your car separates you from all that.
Either way, my drive-in experience was a pleasure and a beauty. It was just beautiful to see a movie on a big screen again regardless of the setting...
Freelance film critic, journalist and writer based in Nottingham, UK. Specialises in cinema.
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