Movies Under the Stars

By: Megan Pasche

Is there anything more exciting when you are a kid then hearing those words: “we’re going to the drive in this weekend!” I mean, getting to watch movies, eat junk, then stay up really late? Quintessential summer experience. But that sense of excitement doesn’t need to end when your childhood does, it can carry right through to adulthood. Just think, now you can actually stay awake for all the movies. There is really something special about sitting out under the stars, feeling as though you’ve been time warped back to 1950, as the “let’s all go to the lobby” jingle plays, simultaneously encouraging you to buy some tasty treats and ensuring that song won’t be exiting your head anytime in the foreseeable future. (You can identify those who have been to the drive in on the weekend, if come lunchtime at work Monday, they start singing, “let’s all go eat our lunch now, let’s all go eat our lunch now…”)

But how did it all begin? The year was 1933, and a man by the name of Richard Hollingshead opened the first drive in theatre in Camden, New Jersey. The cost? Twenty-five cents per car. Hollingshead’s day job? Auto parts salesman. It wasn’t necessarily the whole idea of watching movies in an outdoor setting that was novel at that time; people were always setting up screens outdoors to watch silent films. It was the concept of watching a movie from your car that was genius.

He came up with the idea as a solution to the fact that his mom was a little too large to fit into the seats at a regular, indoor movie theatre. So, instead of perhaps the easier solution of helping his mom exercise and eat better, he came up with the idea of the drive in (probably further encouraging her size, but hey, watching movies from a car is pretty cool.) All he needed? A car, a projector and two sheets tied to trees in his yard. Voila! Sometimes the best inventions are born out of a desire to embrace laziness.

He tinkered with this invention for a couple of years, experimenting with different ramp heights for cars so that everyone could see the screens. By May of 1933, he patented his concept and opened up his first drive in.

Drive ins started popping up all over the place, especially once in car speakers were invented in the early 1940s. By the late 50s, there were over 4,000 drive ins throughout America.

They were popular entertainment options for a couple decades, but as suburbia spread it’s way across the country, the drive ins that used to be on the outskirts of town were not any longer, and the land got purchased and redeveloped. Nowadays, less than 400 drive ins exist in the United States, and fewer than 50 are in Canada.

Luckily for us here in Niagara, we still have lots of opportunities to watch movies out under the stars. The CanView Drive In located on the outskirts of Fonthill, opened in 1983, and while it has changed ownership throughout the years, it is currently independently operated. There are always a wide variety of films to choose from, with discount nights on Tuesdays and carload nights on Thursdays.

And if that’s not enough outdoor movie action for you, there are a couple of other venues offering up outdoor movies this summer in Niagara.

Open Concept Films hosts Moonlight Movies in a few different locations throughout St. Catharines. The schedule for 2014 is:

Friday, July 11th at Lakeside Park
Friday, July 18th at Henley Island
Friday, July 25th at Montebello Park
Friday, August 8th at Lakeside Park
Friday, August 15th at Montebello Park
Friday, August 22nd at Lakeside Park

Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate Amphitheatre located in Niagara-On-The-Lake, will be hosting Movies After Dark, taking place on Wednesdays from June through September. Tickets are $10, and are available online or at the gate.

Hosting Your Own Outdoor Movie Night
Creating your own outdoor movie theatre is actually pretty easy; there are just a few components that you will need:

Video Source
You can use a laptop computer to play the DVD, or you can use your home DVD or Blu-Ray player.

This will probably be the most expensive part of the movie party, unless you are able to find somebody to borrow one from. Either a LCD or DLP projector would work. You’ll want a projector with 2000 lumens or better, but you might want more depending on how big your screen is. In terms of resolution, you’ll want 720p or 1080p, again, depending on how big the screen is.

Sound Source
Things you can use for sound: stereo amplifier, computer speakers, a stereo that has auxiliary outputs or a home theatre in a box.

This can be created with something as simple as white sheets, or a white shower curtain liner. If you have a bigger budget, you can get an inflatable screen.

Grab a bunch of chairs, blankets and pillows, pop some corn, and soon enough you’ll be hosting a screening party that is the envy of the neighbourhood.

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