Friday, March 26, 2010

Drive-In Movie Theaters

Going to a drive-in movie theater was one of my favorite things to do as a child. Every once in a while, my mother would tell us to run, put on our pajamas, and grab our pillows, and we'd be off to see a movie at one of the various drive-ins in Albuquerque. I'm not sure now just why I enjoyed it so much -- it certainly wasn't the quality of the viewing experience, especially with the dime-sized speakers that one hung on his car window in order to get audio -- but I think there was a definite sense of adventure that went with seeing a movie and never having to leave the car. (Usually, there was a second feature that would last until well after midnight, during which we kids would invariably fall asleep, which in turn was Mom's cue to go home.)

The photo above shows the combined concession stand/projection room at the Terrace Drive-In, which was located on the south side of Central Ave. between Eubank Blvd. and Wyoming Blvd. (The Terrace had a very distinctive neon sign on the back of its screen, featuring a Flamenco dancer.) Adjacent to the Terrace was the Wyoming Drive-In, which was accessed from Wyoming Blvd. -- the structure of the old sign is still in place, at the entrance of what is now a mobile-home park. Other drive-in theaters that I remember going to when I was a kid were: (1) the Tesuque Drive-In, which was in a residential neighborhood west of Wyoming Blvd. and north of Central Ave. (a city park and community center are located there now); (2) the Duke City Drive-In, which was on Carlisle Blvd. north of Menaul Blvd. (a Wal-Mart store is located there now); and (3) the Silver Dollar Drive-In, which was on the east side of San Mateo Blvd. north of Montgomery Blvd. (There were other drive-ins in town, but they were further away and we rarely, if ever, went to them. Later on, someone had the idea to open a multi-screen drive-in, the Albuquerque 6, which was on the west frontage road of I-25 north of Montano Rd. I can remember going there as late as the mid-1980s, although eventually it, too, went under. I think it is now the location, more or less, of the Century 24 [walk-in] movie theater.)

The drive-in movie theater is a part of Americana that has, generally (and lamentably, from my point of view), gone the way of the dodo. Cable/satellite TV, combined with the advent of the VCR and DVD player -- not to mention changing public tastes with regard to video and audio fidelity -- pretty much killed it. However, I have lots of fond memories of the days when there were few things more fun to do than hop in the car and go see a movie.

[Update 4/12/10: I was just thinking about one of Cheech and Chong's old routines, called "Pedro and Man at the Drive-In." At one point, Chong [Man] is off at the snack bar, and Cheech [Pedro] starts watching the movie as the Charlie Chan character solves the murder: "Every-a-one een thees-a room have-a moteev for keeling Meesta Tayla. But Meesta Tayla only have-a one keela. And deh name of dat keela ees..." [~static~] "Ladies and gentlemen, snack bah remehn open nodder feefteen minutes -- after dat ees closed fah dee eevning." (And then, of course, the closing music plays, so we never find out who the killer was -- classic C&C!)]

[Update 10/17/12: Below is a photo from Google Earth, showing the erstwhile locations of three of the drive-in theaters mentioned above, as well as my parents' home, some of the schools I attended while growing up, and other landmarks in the area.]