Depending on your age, you may have never been to a drive-in theater before. It’s an experience that the yuppies will remember well. It was always exciting when mom and dad said we were going to the drive-in. We’d pack up blankets, pillows, a cooler with soft drinks and sometimes snacks. We didn’t want to take too many snacks because that would mean we didn’t make a visit to the concession stand and they had the very best hot dogs, barbecue, big dill pickles, popcorn and the list goes on and on. So, mom was encouraged to only take the bare minimum in the way of food.
We’d get there before dark to find that perfect spot to park the car - close enough, but not too close to the bathroom and concession stand – you didn’t want the lights disrupting your view of the movie. You had to of course check out the speaker (this was before you listened to the movie through your car radio) and then it was a mad dash to play on the playground down in front of the big screen. I don’t know why it was so fun, but it was!
Then it was movie time. As kids, we usually only made it through the first movie and then it was time to get comfy with the pillows and blankets while mom and dad settled in for the second movie. What a perfect night!
For a look back in history, the first drive-in theater was invented in the ’30s using a sheet for a screen that was nailed to trees. A 1928 Kodak projector was mounted on the hood of a car, with a radio behind the screen for sound. So simplistic, but this ingenuity would start a phenomena that spread like wild fire. Who would have known that by 1942, drive-in theaters would begin to spread across the United States, with Ohio leading the way with 11 drive-ins. Going from less than 1,000 drive-ins in 1948 to close to 5,000 by 1958, the drive-in etched its place in history, not just in the U.S., but also in many countries across the world. Of course, time had a way of imposing economic peaks and valleys for the drive-ins, and very few are left today. In Ohio, only 41 remain—Chakeres Drive-In is one of the few and is located in Wilmington.
For owner Phillip Chakeres, the drive-in has always been part of his life. Chakeres is the third-oldest operator of motion pictures in the country, founded in 1908 by his grandfather and great-uncles. According to Chakeres, “It’s like I am in another place and time when I go to a drive-in movie. Adults remember their parents taking them to the drive-in; and now, they too want to take their own children. Everyone wants to relax and re-live this part of his or her childhood. Once you see a movie on the big screen, underneath the stars, with your family and friends, you will never want to see a movie any other way.”
Today, the Wilmington drive-in offers many more amenities than when it first opened. It is comfortable, clean and fun—with first-run movies, restaurant-style concessions and a laid back, family atmosphere for which Wilmington is best known. Drive-in theaters have been, and will continue to be, a family-oriented escape from a fast-paced world.
Give it a try. It’s fun, it’s easy and only $12.50 per carload, no matter how many you have in tow. Be a regular on Friday, Saturday or Sunday nights. They’ll welcome you with open arms.
When my daughter was little, there was no question that this fond memory from my past would be shared with her. It was like stepping back in time. Playground, concession stand, pillow and blanket – it hadn’t changed. Even now that my daughter is grown we still make treks to the Wilmington drive-in. We do it for old times sake, hoping it never goes away. Chakeres Drive-in, we love you!