Tuesday, 6 July 2004

Macon Drive-In Theatre In Memoriam

On May 25, 2004, a tornado ripped through Macon, Missori, just about 20 miles north of my hometown. Fortunately, no one was kileld, although the tornado did strike the Macon Drive-In Theatre. The screen was utterly demolished and some of its building destroyed. It was one of the last drive-in theatres in Missouri. The theatre was opened in 1952 by H.P. Arnold and O.M. Arnold. It had been in continuous operation ever since.

Even though I had never been to the Macon Drive-In, I was saddened by the news of its destruction. It was one of the last drive-in theatres in Missouri. Indeed, one of the unique features of Macon County and Randolph County (where I live) was that we had two drive-in theatres within 20 miles of each other. One was the Macon Drive-In Theatre. The other is the Moberly Drive-In Theatre.

The Moberly Drive-In Theatre opened in 1950, two years before the Macon Drive-In; however, unlike the Macon Drive-In, it has not been in continuous operation. The Moberly Drive-In closed in 1985 for a time. It was in 1997 that B & B Theatres (who owned the old Cinema and State Theatres in Moberly) decided to build a new five screen multiplex around the drive-in theatre. Insofar as I know it was the first time in history that an indoor theatre was built with a drive-in theatre in mind. Since it has re-opened, the Moberly Drive-In has been very successful.

Unfortunately, I have not been back to the drive-in since it re-opened. I can remember the last time I was there. A friend, my brother and I went to see a double bill of Star Trek IIL the Search for Spock and Revenge of the Ninja. We thoroughly enjoyed Star Trek IIL the Search for Spock, but Revenge of the Ninja was so wretched that the only enjoyment we got was holding a "heckling contest" with the girls in the car next to us.

The first drive-in theatre opened in Camden, New Jersey in 1933. By the 1950's, there were 4000 drive-in theatres across the United States. Unfortunately, by the Seventies they had started closing in large numbers. Today there are 825 drive-in theatres left. Until May, Macon and Randolph Counties were fortunate enough to have two of them.

I have to admit that while I love indoor theatres (especially the older theatres with stylized architecture), I ahve always had a fondness for the drive-in theatre. It is different sort of experience from indoor theatres. You have a greater choice of where to sit: in your car, on the hood of your car, or in a lawn chair. You can talk (or heckle the movie) if you wish to. And the screen of the average drive-in theatre is much larger than that of any cinema. Even then I never went to the Macon Drive-In, I am then saddened by the fact that it as destroyed by that storm. It means that there is one less drive-in in the country.

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