Evolution of Technology – Drive-In Movies

Photo from Wired.com by Zen Icknow

AKA Bruce’s Guide to the Evolution of Technology and His Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, Part Three*

With Guest Co-Author, Professor David E. Weber

The Evolution of Technology series continues with the drive-in movie, which was a rite-of-passage for so many teens back in the day.

For those of you that are new to the Evolution of Technology series, these articles are Boomer Tech Talk’s way of looking at the history of technology through nostalgic memories of new technology back in the day. We intend to cover the gamut of topics from the already covered Transistor Radio and Vinyl, to 8-Track Tapes, the Walkman, Car Stereos, and more. Your suggestions are welcome for future topics. Just leave them in the comments section below.

Once again, I am privileged to share the writing of this article with my oldest friend in the world, David E. Weber, a professor of communication studies at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

For more information on Professor Weber and his impressive background, please refer to our first collaboration, Evolution of Technology – Vinyl, which has become the most viewed and commented article, to date, on Boomer Tech Talk.

He remembers incidents in my life that I’ve long forgotten, which is the reason I consider him my personal memory bank. Consequently, DW, as I’ve fondly called him forever, brings a detail of memory to our Evolution of Technology series that is invaluable and so much appreciated by Boomer Tech Talk.

When I refer to the drive-in movie as a rite-of-passage, I mean it quite literally because teens were much more restricted when we grew up in not having alone time together. Dances were chaperoned, parents often supervised dates, and the notion of a teen boy and girl being left alone in one of their bedrooms was beyond any possibility for us Leave It to Beaver-generation teens.

But, when we turned 16, got our driver’s license, and were allowed to go to the drive-in movies, we were freed from the shackles of parental supervision unless, of course, Mom was in the back seat.

The drive-in movie theater was a uniquely American phenomenon (the first such theater was launched in the early 1930s in New Jersey). Given the sprawl of post WWII America, the development of suburbs and the general explosion of our population – the Baby Boomer generation – the drive-in movie became symbolic of the changes that were taking place, socially and otherwise in the fifties and sixties.

Television was becoming ubiquitous and Hollywood was fighting back with bigger screens (Cinemascope) and making every effort to distinguish going to the movies from watching Uncle Miltie, I Love Lucy, or Dragnet.

As Professor Weber and I both grew up in Los Angeles, where Hollywood lived and breathed, and the weather was so perfect, drive-in movie theaters were everywhere. In my childhood, land was still relatively inexpensive so that cost factor wasn’t an impediment. There were two specific drive-in theaters I recall with special fondness – The Gilmore, next to Farmer’s Market (now an upscale outdoor shopping center called The Grove, with a multiplex instead of The Gilmore) and The Olympic, on the corner of Olympic and Bundy.

The Olympic had a painting on the front side of its screen, as every drive-in theater did to varying degrees of artistic expression, that stands out in my memory as the quintessential Southern California image. It showed a surfer, on a very long board, surfing the waves with a girl surfing right next to him.

Teens loved the generally accepted practice of the drive-ins charging by the carload. I can remember all too well the common practice of stuffing extra kids in the trunk to get more friends into the movie. Some drive-ins were wise to this and busted the car and teens, making them pay for everyone.

Once inside the open grounds of the drive-in, you would choose a parking spot on the inclines built to allow each car to face upwards towards the giant screen. A pole adjacent to each parking spot held the speaker that was wired and had a hook that would allow it to hang from inside your window. It also had a volume control. The sound was about as bad as you imagined would be produced by a metal speaker that is allowed to stay outside all the time.

But, who cared!  The movie was secondary to the bigger opportunity going to the drive-in afforded. Making out! Every guy used the drive-in movie as his chance to make a move on his date. And, every girl routinely shrugged off those efforts in the ongoing mating ritual of that much less permissive era.

Frankly, it was really fun and I believe much more appropriate to our teens’ growth than the excess sexuality brought in with The Pill and the Flower Child Generation. But, I’ll leave that for one of my A Dad’s Point-of-View columns, which you can always find on my personal website.

Okay, I think it’s time to turn this article over to DW, who will add much more specific memories, and give us his unique perspective. Take it away, Professor Weber!

The first movie I saw in a drive-in was a picture called Dondi, in summer 1961, when my parents and I were vacationing in San Diego. One night, Mom and Dad threw me and my travel blanket into the car. We went to a drive-in to see  the story of a European war orphan befriended by a U.S. Army squad, and eventually, taken secretly by them back to the U.S.A. I had never watched a movie under bright stars and surrounded by the invigorating chill of a coastal evening. I felt like I was on an adventure. Not only that, Dondi made it seem like being orphaned and then adopted by soldiers was a pretty good deal.

I was hooked on drive-ins ever after. The darkness creeping over the horizon as the show was about to begin always excited me. In a drive-in, unlike in a regular movie theater, talking was permissible because there were no neighbors to disturb. I could ask my mom and dad for an explanation of what I saw but did not understand.

The food concession at most drive-ins seemed like gourmet restaurants. In a drive-in, in addition to the popcorn and soda pop you could buy at any theater, you could purchase hot dogs, hamburgers, and ice cream. Just under the enormous screen, many drive-in owners built swing sets and jungle gyms for use by bored children. You could scamper below projected images so tall and wide as to be difficult to decipher; you could hear the muffled hush of music and dialogue echoing from a thousand tinny speakers.

In 1962, in upstate New York, my cousin, Dick, and his oldest sons and I saw 633 Squadron, a WWII air combat movie, at a drive-in. Decades later, when Dick and I began our occasional email correspondence, the first message I sent him included a reminiscence about that outing, and I also mentioned that I had recently bought 633 Squadron on DVD.

A year or two later, I saw the movie, Goldfinger, starring Sean Connery, in a drive-in near San Jose, California, with my Aunt Margee and her daughters, my cousins Wendy and Debbie. Much of the plot, and most of the double entendres, went over my head, but I entertained myself by observing Wendy and Debbie, a few years older than me, as they giggled and got mushy over Sean Connery.

After we got our driver’s licenses in 1968, my friends and I could go to drive-ins without adult supervision. One Monday, one high school classmate bragged to us that had taken one particularly attractive girl we all knew to a drive-in in his dad’s Ford Mustang. One of the guys smirked, “Hold on … the Mustang? It has bucket seats, practically no back seat, and a stick shift!” For weeks thereafter, we reminded Mustang Boy that anyone dimwitted enough to take a girl to a drive-in in a car without bench seats had no business taking a girl to a drive-in!

When my college years began in the early 1970s, drive-ins had begun to close down, or typically only showed movies originally released months before. But drive-ins offered me, a movie buff, a second shot at seeing movies I had liked, or missed, during initial release. Thus in a drive-in near my university did I see The Wild Bunch with four other movie-loving buddies from my dorm.

The last time I went to a drive-in was in Denver in 1996. My girlfriend, Ann, and I, both in our mid-40s, thought it would be fun to pretend we were once again teenagers! Speaker technology had improved markedly from back in the day. But I felt confined peering through the windshield. Ann and I climbed into the back seat. It was cramped and cold and limited the view of the screen even more. Well before the movie ended, we drove back to her place to watch a movie on video, in comfort. Fittingly, the movie we had suffered through at the drive-in was Waterworld . . . a mediocre film famous for being one of the biggest and most expensive bombs in Hollywood history.

As promised, DW did deliver some great memories from that hard-drive memory of his. We’d love to hear some of your memories so please feel free to share them with us in the comments section below. In the meantime, we’ll be working on our next Evolution of Technology article. Will it be 8-Tracks, Car Stereos, the Walkman, or Answering Machines? Suggestions are welcomed.

Now, you can’t go to drive-in movie theatres anymore, but I have to tell you that my home theatre is a darn fun experience. My couch is as good for making out as any jalopy’s back seat!  But, it really did change significantly when I got my new Blu-Ray DVD Player (Samsung BD-C5500 1080p Blu-ray Disc Player).  I was not surprised at the enhanced picture quality, but I was blown away, literally, by the better sound. I happen to have a really good Stereo system, with monster speakers, so I was able to really hear the difference.  And, it was a heckuva lot better than those tinny speakers at the drive-in, though I’d still love to enjoy the drive-in experience now and then.

We’d like to know what technology you would like us to address in the next Evolution of Technology article in this series.  Please vote for one of the following, by putting your vote in a comment, in our comments section, below:

Sony Walkman
8mm movies
Film photography and darkrooms

*an homage to Tom Wolfe’s first collected book of essays, published in 1965.

  • Bill Draeger

    I have a drive-in movie joke. Did you hear about the couple that nearly froze to death at a drive-in movie. They went to see “Closed For The Winter.”

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Yipes, now we’re getting jokes for comments! LOL Bill. But, what’s your vote for our next article in the series?

    • David Weber (from the article)

      “Closed for the Winter” was not a bad movie, but I liked the book better…! Thanks for commenting, Bill.

  • Jeff

    This series is getting better and better. I vote for film photography and darkrooms next (I had one).

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Thanks for the support Jeff. One vote it. Curious where we’ll end up and what Professor Weber and I will be writing next!?

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Thanks for the support Jeff. One vote it. Curious where we’ll end up and what Professor Weber and I will be writing next!?

    • Weberdcom

      Thanks for the reply, Jeff. I’ll start putting on my thinking cap on this one if (a) more people want to read about film and darkrooms, and (b) Bruce wants me to contribute to such an article!

      • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

        DW – it’s up to the votes! We don’t have a choice! Lol…Let’s see what happens when your students begin weighing in!

  • lacubfan

    Actually, the drive-in has recently made somewhat of a comeback as boomers (like you Bruce) have felt that nostalgic twinge. In fact, in the last 10 years, several have reopened and even a handful of NEW ones have been built. Find them @ http://www.drive-ins.com.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Wow, that’s so cool! Thanks for the info and link.

  • Roger Corman

    Thanks for these recollections. I too have happy memories of drive-ins.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      You were a great contributor to them RC – thx for commenting from the hereafter!

  • http://twitter.com/notasupermom Not A Supermom

    I was born in the 70’s, but I remember drive-ins! We saw Herby the Love Bug when I was a pre-schooler and I still remember it vividly.

    Years later, I remember seeing a double-feature of “classics”, Blackula and Old Dracula. Old Dracula starred David Niven, bless his heart.

    Bruce, I bring good tidings of great joy–there are still drive-ins. My favorite is the Midtown in Harriman, TN.

    Check out drive-ins.com to see if there are any near you. They should start opening back up soon.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      That is good news but it’s not likely to take hold in Los Angeles, where land costs about $1,000,000 per square foot! lol. Thanks for sharing the memories, “Supermom!”

    • David W., “The Professor”

      You just made it into the drive-in era! I don’t know if they will come back, or not. Last week, on DVD, I saw a movie from the 1980s, called “The Outsiders.” One of the early scenes takes place in a drive-in…not only in cars, but in seats that were placed outdoors, near the concession stand. I don’t recall outdoor seating like that from my own experience in drive-ins. Thanks for your comment, N.A.S.

  • Anonymous

    Actually, you can goto drive-ins if you know where to look, although the one near me closed down in the early 2000’s. We have one that is still in use as a daily swap meet as well. I don’t know if they’d ever try to show movies there again….

    The phrase “…at a theatre or drive-in near you…” has only recently gone out of use as a way to get you to the movies….

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      You got me with that anachronistic phrase Batman! Thanks. I needed to remember that!

    • David W., “the Professor”

      I agree with Bruce, I had forgotten that tagline. The new version of it would be “visit us at Facebook,” as well as providing the webpages for the movie. Thanks for the comment, Batman.

      • Anonymous

        You’re quite welcome. I need to come here more often 😉

  • JohnMcCallister31

    I want to go to a drive-in and make out! Sounds like so much fun. Thanks for sharing this. I vote for Sony Walkman for your next article as that was my first serious tech thing I got into.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Well, John, given your “vote,” I’d guess you’re around 40?

  • Hgb3321

    Film photography and darkrooms!

  • Hannah Bingham

    I wish I would have been alive for drive-in movies! It would have been cool to go with a boyfriend or date. THat would definitely be considered an interpersonal relationship (a romantic one) on the continuum of personal relationships. Lots of interpersonal, verbal and nonverbal communication could have been used on that date! :) Anyways, it would be really interesting to hear about Film photography and darkrooms next! Loved the article.

    • David Weber

      Thanks, Hannah. Regarding romantic relationships, you are right on the money as to where they are on the continuum. Thanks for posting a comment.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Thanks for the vote Hannah – most people may not be finishing the article and seeing that?????

  • Jessica Saunders

    This was such a fascinating article because I have always wanted to experience a drive-in movie theatre. However, there are little to none running anymore. In a sense, I can relate to going to a movie theatre without parental supervision for the first time and feeling ‘grown up.’ As this article discussed the sense of freedom to take a date and be ‘close’ to one another. In my COM 105 class with Dr. Weber, we discuss this to be intimate distance. Which is contact up to 18 inches and is definitely an interpersonal relationship. You usually experience this intimate distance when going to the movie theatre with a boyfriend or girlfriend or just someone you are interested in. I would think especially for a drive-in movie this intimate distance would be the distance used. However, if you went as just friend I am sure the distance would of been closer to personal distance. Hopefully one day I will be able to find a drive-in movie theatre and experience what they did in the 60s.

    • David W. (“the professor”)

      Hello, Jessica, thanks for posting a comment. You have the interpersonal distance right. Good observations, and use of the vocabulary.

      • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

        DW – is this how you pursue a romantic relationship Dr. W – with “interpersonal distance” – lol!

        • David W. (“the professor”)

          I don’t come up with the terminology, I just teach it.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Ugh, “Intimate Distance” sounds so clinical! How about “Close Heat” instead?

  • Cary Welborn

    Reading about drive-in movie theaters reminds me of the 1978 movie Grease. I can’t help but think of the part where John Travolta, at the drive-in, tries to make a move on Olivia Newton John but she pushes him away. That is also so funny to me that Dr. Weber left the movie Waterworld early. I have seen the movie and I agree; it is terrible!! This past Tuesday In COM 105, we actually discussed the fundamental concepts of mass media. The first thing we went over were the “traditional” types or “old media.” Drive-in movie theaters could certainly fall into the category of old-media due to the fact that they are not around anymore. I realize that media changes and improves over time, but it would really be cool to get to experience a drive-in movie at some point in my life like you guys did! Great article!

    • David W., “the professor”

      Hello, Cary. Yes, drive-ins are old-school. I don’t know if they are old MEDIA, though…the movies shown at them are the media. Still, I like the way in which you are working with important concepts. Thanks for the comment.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Cary, I’ve been told that “Drive-Ins” are making a comeback so you still might get to have that thrill of making the moves on a gal at one!

  • Kelsey Knight

    I have always wanted to go to a drive-in movie, personally I think it could be very romantic! Just as Dr. Weber was thinking with his girlfriend! My dad has always pointed out to me where the drive-in was when he was a teen. I just imagine all of the fun memories he must have of going to these drive-in movies with friends, and girlfriends, and I’m a little jealous of him. In COM 105 a few weeks ago, we discussed “symbols”, the article mentions drive-ins being a way for teens to escape the watchful eye of their parents. I believe when drive-ins were around they were a “symbol” of freedom for teens. Now they are a “symbol” of the past, more specifically the 60’s and 70’s. Thanks for sharing your memories! Great article.

    • David W. (“the professor”)

      Great application of the concept of symbol! Also, excellent illustration of the concept that the meaning of a symbol often is NOT fixed/stable/enduring…that instead, a symbol’s meaning may shift/change. Thanks for your comment, Kelsey.

      • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

        Hey, what do you know about this stuff DW? I remember you when you were in diapers (okay, that’s a slight exaggeration especially since you’re 13 months older than me) – lol.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Very thoughtful comment Kelsey. Yes, we of the older generation do tend to reminisce about things past. Don’t you ever wonder what you will reminisce about when there are flying cars and Star Trek transporting?

  • James Reilly

    Interesting article! I would have really liked to be able to go see a drive in movie mainly because I wouldn’t have to share a room with 100 other people also watching it. As I learned in my COM 160 class, media literacy, “noise” is any sound that gets in the way of effectively delivering message. In my own car, I would be able to talk to whoever was with me, without worrying about creating noise for other views. At the same time it would cut down on noise from other viewers for me. Also, if I were on a date I could choose to use verbal communication throughout the movie,or nonverbal communication if the date were bad. I could just pretend to be into the movie.

    Next I’d like to learn about Film Photography and darkrooms.

    • David W. (“the professor”)

      You’re going to be using noverbal communication no matter what, James…when you’re interacting with someone, you may CHOOSE to use spoken language or not, but automatically as well as by choice you will always be signalling in various nonverbal codes. Thanks for the comment.

  • Betsy Douglass

    Very intriguing article. I instantly thought of the movie “Grease” when Danny tries to make moves on Sandy at the drive in theater. It also reminds me of the first “dine-drive” in movie I saw on a trip to Disney World. There was a diner that had little cars as tables and a huge projection screen so people could experience a little cultural nostalgia. In relation to COM 105, i noticed that it struck similarly to some of the topics we talked about in class today. We learned about the Private and Public spheres. In regards to DW and his girlfriend Ann, they seemed to be in a public sphere while they were at the movie theater, as opposed to being in a private sphere when they watched a movie at home, more comfortably. However, judging from this article there seemed to be some private sphere action going on in a public sphere during the times of the drive in movies!

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Wow, “Grease” really “is the word!”

    • David W. (“the professor”)

      Very nice analysis, Betsy! Indeed, one way to explain the popularity of drive-ins was that behavior that in the public sphere of which a drive-in is part, each car is an “island” of private-sphere behavior. I have read analyses of behavior on the highway by drivers that approaches the situation from a similar analytical point. Just one gross example is: People who would NEVER dream of picking their nose “in public” will do so while driving their cars on a crowded roadway. Thanks for the comment!

  • Betsy Douglass


    Here is a youtube video of the clip in Grease of the drive in experience Danny had….it shows all the vivid details DW noted, like the playground they had for restless children ( the swingset). And the Commercial of the concessions and refreshments that DW also described!

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Thx so much for sharing that with us Betsy!

    • David W. (“the professor”)

      I don’t think I mentioned this in my article, but I saw Grease in a drive-in…it was 1978 and I saw the movie with a lady named Myra. Watching a drive-in scene while in a drive-in was quite a life-and-art-collide kind of moment. Another example of something similar was a movie called “Earthquake” from the early 1970s. It was a big-budget so-called “disaster film” about, surprise, a devastating earthquake. In the movie, the scene in which the moment at which the earthquake actually strikes is set in a movie theater! So you’re in a theater watching a movie of people watching a movie when an earthquake strikes. [Cue spacey music!] Thanks for this comment, too, Betsy!

  • Ethan Bridges

    I found it very interesting to read in the beginning of the article that teens were restricted in the amount of alone time that they had together. I could hardly imagine adults monitoring almost every aspect of teen interaction. Maybe that’s why there were no “Teen Mom” series on the television during that time period either! With the presence of adults at so many social functions ect., the aspect of tension in communication came into consideration. I thought back to the retro show, “Leave It to Beaver”. I can imagine the look of stress on “Beaver’s” expression when he was trying to be honest with his mother without divulging the full extent of his mischeif. The complex dance of communication in these situations must have been a sight to see!

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      You raise an interesting point not covered in our article, Ethan. I actually think it is less that teens were more supervised or had “less opportunity” than the fact that shame and morals existed in a much stronger manner (no judgment intended by that statement). For instance, if a high school girl got pregnant, the family and the girl would usually send her away and she’d have the baby in secret. There’d be some elaborate excuse for why she was gone upon her return. If they kept the child, they’d declare its maternity to a distant relative. Yes, it was different “Back In the Day!”

    • David W. (“the professor”)

      Thanks for the comment, Ethan. I would like to read more about how you would describe the manner in which the complex dance of communication would unfold in such situations.

  • Kara Zimmerman

    It was interesting to read how much movies have changed over time. Being from a younger generation I am disappointed that I was never able to experience a drive in movie. The difference between drive in movies and movie theaters today reminded me of private and public spheres. Drive in movies seemed to revolve more around private spheres and movie theaters today are in a much more public atmosphere. During a drive in movie you are able to talk to the person sitting next to you without being overheard by other movie watchers. It also resembles a private sphere because a couple on a date are able to be intimate without others being able to see. Today in a movie theater one is in a public sphere. Everyone sits very close together and people are called rude and other bad names for making talking throughout a movie. How we act in a movie theater today has a greater impact on the movie watchers around us than it did in the past at drive in movies.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Kara, not being a Comm major I don’t know about public or private spheres (Obviously, Professor Weber does), but don’t despair as evidently Drive-In Theatres are making a comeback and you will have the opportunity to experience it if you seek it out. I’m thrilled to hear this. Seems everything “old” becomes “new” again? Sort of like in fashion!

    • David W. (“the professor”)

      Good work on this analysis, Kara — you wrote an articulate and cogent comment. Scroll down and read the comment by Betsy Douglass at 10.25 a.m., 10 March (it will not be labeled March 10th if you read it today, March 11th, and instead will be marked simply “yesterday”).

  • Grumplestiltskin

    No one has said anything about how great it is that we don’t have to even bother going to movie theaters any more! I can watch a DVD in the privacy and comfort of my home theater, and with better image definition and higher-quality sound. That means I don’t have to go to a movie theater and deal with crying babies, old folks talking too loudly as they hash over what they’re watching on the screen, popcorn under my feet on the sticky floor and ticket prices that escalate unceremoniously. I hope I never set foot in a cineplex again — let alone a drive-in. You guys are getting teary-eyed over nothing!

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      You are completely right. And, I’m glad I don’t have to share a theatre with a “Grump” like you, let alone a car at a Drive-In! Lol. I also do enjoy my home theatre, spelled with a “re” at the end, but the communal experience of watching movies is unique and, for some, especially comedies or scary movies, having others there MAKES the experience! Seeing a comedy alone often is odd and the movie may not even seem near as funny as with a receptive audience! Appreciate the comment, really, anyway!

      • http://twitter.com/notasupermom Not A Supermom

        Some movies just must be seen on the big screen.

        My husband and I hated Lost in Translation at home. Everyone who recommended it to us saw it in the theater.

        Sitting in the dark in front of a huge screen creates an intimacy with the film you may not get when you are on the couch multitasking and not completely absorbed in the story.

        • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

          So very true!

  • Acp1963

    To be different from the others who posted, I would like to analyze this article using the 6 steps Dr. Weber taught us in COM 105 on how to deconstruct media messages.
    1)Who created this message and why?- Bruce Sallan and David Weber; To share past memories for entertainment and to provide knowledge about a older form of technology for displaying movies that some may not be familiar with.
    2) Who is the target audience?-All ages. (The older crowd would enjoy the stories and memories about their experiences with drive-in theaters and a younger crowd (like myself) enjoys learning about this style of movie projection and your experiences with it)
    3)What is the TEXT (literal meaning) of the message- Drive-in movies were very popular in the 60’s. They created a place for teenagers to have independence and develop interpersonal relationships.
    4)What is the subject?- Drive-in movie theaters
    5)What tools of persuasion are used?- This article was more to inform and entertain but if drive-in theaters still existed this article would have definitely persuaded me to go! Dr. Weber quoted, “I had never watched a movie under bright stars and surrounded by the invigorating chill of a coastal evening” that sold it for me. He also talked about the gourmet food and the memories he created with a special person. All of which are convincing points to go to a drive-in theater.
    6)What is not being said?- Why drive-in theaters don’t exist anymore. Was it because lack of audience attendance, finances or safety? They sound like a great place to me!?

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Hey ACP – you’re not calling Professor Weber and me “the older crowd” are you? 1963 – can’t be your birth year? Good analysis, but it’s over my head? Professor Weber?

    • David W. (“the professor”)

      Outstanding! This web article IS a media message and I think you analyzed it pretty well.Number four should be “what is the SUBTEXT,” though– not “what is the subject?” Good analysis other than that!

  • Michael Luistro

    Very interesting article. Its fun to think about how common they were in the past, and how completely rare they are now-a-days. I would have loved to enjoy this type of entertainment as your generation did. I feel like it would have been a great experience. Unfortunately, that technology has been phased out by HD TV’s and surround sound speakers. I like how the article focused mainly on the experience that the drive-in movie theatres brought young kids.

    In relation to COM 105, this article describes how the drive in movie theatres were a symbol. To me, drive-ins are a symbol of the 50’s and 60’s. Also, drive-ins were used for adolescents to advance relationships on the relationship continuum. A guy could take a girl to the drive-in as friends, and leave as romantic partners, advancing to a more intimate relationship on the continuum.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Yeah, hard to do that (“advancing to a more intimate relationship on the coninuum”) via texting! Good comment Michael – thanks!

    • David W. (“the professor”)

      Thanks, Michael, for the comment. Also, you used the technical vocab of communication studies correctly.

  • Sarah Tegen

    Reading this article definitely made me image a time where things were much simpler. These days its hard enough to afford to go to the movies after paying for the ticket, food, and beverage. Then once you get in the movie, you had to worry about not interrupting the movie for anyone else. The experience has really been complicated to the point that I find it unenjoyable. I’d rather watch a movie in the privacy of my own home. Reading about the drive in movies made me wish there were such a refreshing mean of entertainment available today. In relation to COM 105, it seems that drive in movies were an effective way to build interpersonal relationships between individuals. The example of guys taking the attractive girls to movies for a date seemed much more personal back in the day. The ability to talk and communicate while watching the movie really allows the individuals to feel closer to one another, decreasing instability with one another, leading to the formation of a solid relationship. When I go on movie dates today, I feel like I am sharing the experience with the whole theatre. This makes it less personal, and I do not feel a strong connection upon leaving. The ability to communicate during the movie allows for more of a dyadic communication to take place.

    • David W. (“the professor”)

      Thanks, Sarah. I would say that drive-ins were less a WAY to build interpersonal relationships but more a setting in which such relationships could be effectively constructed.

  • Ana Lopez

    I really enjoyed reading the article and I loved hearing the stories of what it was like through you two who actually experienced it! Ever since I was little and watched Grease I’ve wanted to go to a drive-in. There have to still be some around somewhere, right?? It makes me sad to think of how society used to be and how it is now in terms of what is scandalous and shocking. The sweet innocence of drive-ins and supervised dates makes me think about what teens nowadays are missing out on. We have adapted and changed as our world has changed through several means, especially technology. I’m in Dr. Weber’s COM 105 as well and am able to apply various aspects of this article to concepts we’ve learned in his class. We have spoken about organizations and what the definition of an organization is. While I wouldn’t exactly label the audience of drive-ins as an organization, they do possess much of the criteria that make one up. We discussed the concept of “tales” and how people use tales to convey company values and what’s important versus what’s not. Dr. Weber speaks about “Mustang boy” who came back bragging about taking out an attractive girl to the drive-in. “Mustang boy” felt proud and accomplished and so his tale would have been categorized as a “hero tale.” However, once his friends shot down the tale and made fun of him because the he couldn’t make-out properly in the Mustang, the tale become more of a “cautionary” one. Within organizations there is a sense of “collective identity,” this “we-ness.” The audience, specifically the teens, of drive-ins had this sort of “collective identity.” They were there to break away from the restrictions of society and make out! They all knew that was why they were there and they shared a sort of bond through this. Through the struggle between societal rules and hormones, teens had this tension between creativity and constraint. The norms and rules, constraints, were supervised dating and constant chaperones. Teens attempted to resist this dominance and make new kinds of relationships, creativity. They had to try and find a balance between this tension. Going to drive-ins, they were both taking a girl on a date and paying for her (hopefully) which was proper. At the same time though, they were able to break free a little and get creative by trying to make out on this date.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Excellent comment Ana and I do hope you get to fulfill your dream, from “Grease” (wow, that’s been referenced a bunch), and go to a drive-in someday. I do have one word for you (said with a laugh): paragraphs.

    • David W. (“the professor”)

      Hello, Ana, thanks for your well-thought-out comments. You were able to bring in several threads here. “Mustang Boy” was a hero in his own eyes, I guess one would say, but his story, even though told “heroically” by him, was indeed a cautionary tale. I agree that a drive-in is not an organization when considered from the perspective of the audience. From the perspective of the owner and staff of the d.i., though, it IS an organization–a business organization. The collective identity owner and staff would share would not necessarily be in harmony with the collective identity of the audience, although there would be some overlap in those collective identities. Very good work on applying the concepts you selected!

  • Amanda Rosiak

    I found this article regarding drive-in movies to be very interesting. I never had the experience of going to a drive-in movie, but I really wish I had the chance. Nowadays, going to the movies causes more aggravation than it’s worth. After spending $10 on a movie ticket, you go into a theater where everyone continues to talk, use their cell phones, and participate in other activities that disrupt those around you while the movie is going on. It is hard to even concentrate on the movie with all the distractions that are occurring. The concept of a drive-in movie seems so much more enjoyable than theaters today.
    In relation to COM 105, I relate drive-in movies and movie theaters to the way nonverbal communication manages human interaction. In movie theaters, everyone sits very close to one another. No matter if you know each other or not, you have to sit within an intimate distance (contact-18 inches) of those around you. At best, everyone is within personal distance, which is still only a maximum of four feet away. When it comes to a drive-in movie, people can be a lot more spread out. Your date or friends are the only ones required to be within that intimate, or personal distance. If you do not know a certain group of people, you are at least separated by a parking space. This gets into the social distance (4-12 feet), which is much more comfortable for those who do not know one another.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      You have echoed another comment about how going to movie theaters today is basically a “Pain.” Very interesting how your generation see this! Thanks for the comment, Amanda!

    • David W. (“the professor”)

      Good use of the interaction zones signals from the proxemics code, Amanda. Thanks for the comment.

  • Casey Jordan Milliken

    This article is littered with intriguing nostalgia. It is very interesting to look back on how things how changed so drastically and how the evolution of technology is constantly growing and altering aspects of human society. I really can appreciate this series of articles addressing these monumental progressions. Keep them coming. My vote for the next article is the Sony Walkman.

    In relation to my COM 105 class, I believe the article reflects some of the concepts and ideas of interpersonal communication. Of course the idea of developing relationships and creating connection are emphasized by the stories of hormone-driven teenagers trying to swap spit with pretty girls in the back seat of their car, but the article also touches on another territory that DW said interpersonal communication covers beyond that of relationships. The impact of setting, occasion, and culture is another of the many factors that can influence interpersonal communication. In the era that drive-ins were popular the culture was rich and blossoming with a newfound sense of freedom and independence for love-struck high-school sweethearts (which are often stereotypically portrayed in movies alluding to this time in history: lettermen jackets, slicked hair, attractive blonde girls, pompous football players etc.) The drive-in setting and the culture developing around it potentially influenced the direct, immediate, and spontaneous connection that was created in the back seat of a 1960’s Mustang. The interaction of the two people, escaping the restrictive grip of their cautious parents, could vary significantly than two other people put in a different setting or in a different era with a different cultural influences.

    Looking forward to the next article in this series!

    Casey Jordan Milliken

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      I love your line, Casey – “This article is littered with intriguing nostalgia” – can we borrow it? And, thanks for your vote for the next article in this series. How about some more votes everyone?

      • Casey Jordan Milliken

        You can borrow whatever you need sir.

    • David W. (“the professor”)

      Hello, Casey, good application and analysis of some theoretic pillars of interpersonal relationships. You sounded very fluent with “talking the talk” of communication! Well done! Thanks for the comment.

  • Ssm1878

    This article really does resonate in my life. There are many similarities seen in a teenagers life in the 60’s as compared to a teenagers life now-a-days.
    Although Drive thru movie theatres are no longer common, the idea behind them are still the same. The whole ritual of gaining the right of a car and taking a girl to the movies is still ever so present.
    As a kid I would always envy those who had a drivers license, if anything it was more of a license to freedom

    To relate this to COM 105, I would use the word dyadic as a synonym for interpersonal communication. This would be describing the activity that is going on between you and your date. Because dyadic refers to two people and no more, you can hopefully say that there is no third-wheel on your date. Especially a third wheel involving one of your parents.

    Stephen Mauceri

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Stephen, are you aware that many teens don’t get their driver’s licenses as soon as we did. Any thoughts on that?

    • David W. (“the professor”)

      Thanks for the comment, Stephen. Yes, dyadic and interpersonal are often used interchangeably as descriptors of a communication setting.

      • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

        Yeah, like the Professor said…

  • KCV4564

    This article was a very interesting read! My mom was also in the baby-boomer generation and listening to her stories about the drive-in was great; of course I always felt like my generation really missed out on that beloved tradition. It is disappointing to think that my generation may never experience a drive-in movie. The togetherness that the teenagers must have felt back in the day must have been thrilling, pilling into cars, stuffing friends in the trunk with the thrill of getting caught. Although we don’t get to experience that today we do have the best sound and picture quality of any generation.

    In relation to my COM 105 I think that the whole drive-in feel really allows friends and significant others to really build great interpersonal relationships. They get that alone time with their significant other that they may not have gotten otherwise and can talk and get to know each other better without their parents breathing down their necks.

    I would like to hear about Film Photography and darkrooms because I took two years of Darkroom classes in high school and would like to know about your experiences (if any) with old photography.


    • Kcv4564

      Kirstin C. Vogel

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Which would you prefer, Kristen, the improved sound and visual quality today or the fun of being stuffed in the trunk with several other smelly friends?

    • David W. (“the professor”)

      Thanks, “KCV,” nice contribution to the discussion.

  • Megan JOhnson


    When I think of Drive ins, I picture old black and white movies projected onto a white screen. I picture big poufy hair for the girls and greased back hair for the guys. My image is also probably affected by mass media. Films such as “Grease” try to depict drive ins during the 60s and 70s. However the appearance of the characters may be a little exaggerated from what they really were in that time era

    Believe it or not I have been lucky to live 30 min away from a drive in. I have went from time to time and seen a few movies. It truly is a great experience, I wish that there were more around unfortunately that is no longer the case.

    In Dr. Weber’s class Com 105 introduction to communication. We have received knowledge on public speaking we have learned a variety of different methods to use when preparing and to do a speech. In my opinion the article that was compiled by Dr. Weber and Bruce Sallen is very similar to the 5 effective ways in giving a speech. The first task is to “Decide what to say”. Dr. Weber and Bruce had to decide what to say in there article, so the audience (or readers) are able to understand and enjoy the article. The second task is to “Decide the most effective sequence for what you say (or write)”. Dr. Weber and Bruce Sallen had to make sure that all their information and thoughts that were used in the article, and they made since and were properly sequenced. The better sequence you have the more attractive the article or speech will be to your audience or reader. The third task is to “Choose language effectively”. Dr. Weber and Bruce Sallen had to make sure that they used proper language in other words the speaker or writer needed to “know their audience”. It is important to make sure that you do not offend your audience and to use proper wording that is appropriate. The fourth task is to “Package it all effectively” this task does not apply to writing a article really, but it can if you were to read the article out loud. The speaker would want to make sure that they use proper NVC. Task 5 is “Remember what you planned to say and do or in this case write” Dr. Weber and Bruce Sallen needed to make sure that they put all the information in the paper that they wanted to talk about. In addition they needed to make sure they made all their points and made all the comments they wanted to add to the article. I think that the article was effectively written, it was an enjoyable topic to read about.
    I look forward to the next article.
    Megan Johnson

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Megan, except for misspelling my name, I loved your comment and how your related it to your Com class with Dr. Weber! Well done!

    • David W. (“the professor”)

      Hello, Megan, you were very effective in applying the 5 tasks to the written word. I do think that task 4 DOES relate to writing…the “packaging” would be the spelling, the punctuation, the spacing of paragraphs, the general impact of the layout or formatting…all of that is the equivalent of gesturing, moving in space, and so on, when giving a speech. Thanks for the comment.

  • Joy Ellis

    I enjoyed reading this article because it discusses something most people (including myself) from my generation have never experienced, though it was popular and common for a different generation. Agreeing with many other comments, I think it would be interesting to go to a drive-in for the experience, but I would prefer to see a movie with the quality we are capable of having now. If drive-ins do make a come back, which I hope they do, they should have a better picture and sound system to keep the older idea the same while using newer technology.

    The article reminds me of the questions to consider when deconstructing media messages, learned in Dr. Weber’s COM 105 class. These include:
    1) Who created the message and why?
    2) Who is the target audience?
    3) What is the text?
    4) What is the subtext?
    5) What tools of persuasion are used?
    6) What is not being said?

    I think it’s interesting how this criteria can be followed today, as well as in the ’60s and ’70s. It can also be a guide in the future because media will always have aspects one should question to discover the true meaning.

    For the next article, I would love to read about film photography and darkrooms. The whole process seems interesting to me, so I would like to learn more about what you know and your experiences with it.

    -Joy Ellis

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Great contribution to the dialogue Joy and thanks for voting – we need/want more!

    • David W. (“the professor”)

      Thanks for the comment, Joy. I have not thought of applying those questions to a technology (for the moment, I’m thinking of drive-ins as technology), but perhaps one could.

  • Sandy

    Drive-in movies bring back fond memories. I first encountered drive-in movies in 1947 when I came to the US and Los Angeles. This was three years after the second world war which I had lived in Europe and which had threatened civilisation. To come from food lines and bomb shelters to a space for watching movies from your car, and doing other things with one’s girlfriend, was quite a shock. Unfortunately for me, I did not have a car. But I did enjoy the experience a couple of times on a double date. Your article, Bruce, reminds me of those younger days of long, long ago. Thank you.


    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      I love the perspective you gave us given when Drive-Ins played a role in your life Sandy. Thanks so much for sharing those memories!

    • David W. (“the professor”)

      From Bomb Shelters to Drive-Ins: that will be a good title for your autobiography! Glad you made it here safe and sound all those years ago.Thanks for your comment.

      • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

        That’s my cousin, DW!

  • Straitgirl60

    I think because of the economy being as bad as it is, Drive- In theaters have a big chance of becoming big again If there are people out there willing to spend the money to open them. The reason I say this is because People still want to go out but its hard to do so because everything is expensive. You have to go get a babysitter( if you have kids), You usually go out to dinner(before the movie) and then you spend money on popcorn and snacks(if you didn’t go out to dinner. If you have kids a baby sitter will probably cost you around $5.00 an hour per kid for an average of about 3 or 4 hours. Dinner will probably cost you around $30. to $50. Getting into the movie theater costs around $10.00 or more per person depending on where you live.So on Average going out to the movies costs around $100.00 or more for just 2 people if you have Kids.(and that doesnt include the popcorn). For this reason People rent movies and stay at home with their kids. But Folks still like to get out and go to a movie. If there was a drive in theater around the cost of going to the movies would go from roughly around $100. to roughly $20. to $30.00. The Kids can go with (they will more than likely fall asleep at some point), and dinner can be prepared and taken to the drive in and anything else you would like to bring with you to eat or snack on can be brought in as well. You still have to buy the stuff to prepare dinner and you still have to buy popcorn and pop it at home if you want to go that route and any other snacks you would have to purchase as well, but the cost of going to the movies would become a much cost effective way to get out of the house (even with your kids). I am fortunate enough to have a drive in theater in my town and I recently started going back to the drive in( its cheaper and they show brand new movies)because i can be comfortable in whatever I want to wear, bring what ever I want to eat, and if I want to talk on my cell phone or have a conversation, then I can do this all in the comfort of my vehicle. I really would love to see Drive Ins make a comeback. They were fun and they do being back memories.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      You are so right that the economics alone is reason to bring back Drive-Ins! Thanks for the comment Straitgirl60! I have one question – do you know what a paragraph is? Just foolin’ with you as I love your comment and the time and care you put into it!

    • David W. (“the professor”)

      So few options for entertainment come cheap. Good observations. Thanks for the comment.

      • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

        A good conversation is cheap?

  • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

    Voting is over soon with Film Photography/Darkrooms leading Sony Walkman as the next Evolution of Tech topic – http://bit.ly/EvoTechDriveIns

  • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

    The polls are closed and Film Photography/Darkrooms will be the next topic for the Evolution of Technology series! Stay tuned.

  • http://twitter.com/fairuse fairuse

    Late. After hours comment.

    The last drive-In theater around here became a Home Depot® and it kept the drive-in’s sign (in corporate colors) to remind folks the drive-in is gone. The style committee probably thought is was a neat retro design thing to do. – whatever -.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Boy, that would just irritate me! A Home Depot over a beloved landmark! Ugh!