The concept of a drive-in movie theater is a really weird idea. Who ever watched a movie in a theater and said, “Hmm… I want this, but outside?” I’m sure someone has written a dissertation on this topic, but strip the research away and it is a very strange desire.
Having said that, I absolutely love going to the drive-in. I love the absurdity of the viewing experience. I love a good open air environment no matter what (unless there are bugs swarming). And, if we’re talking about the Garden Drive-In in particular, I love the scenery.
When you go to a regular movie theater, you’re mostly just there to see a movie and then walk out. Unless you’re hanging out at art house theaters or you really get excited about going to the movies every time you do so, there isn’t a very clear reason to admire where you are while you’re watching a movie. At the Garden Drive-In, there’s more to appreciate about that specific time and place.
Every single time I go to the Garden Drive-In, the first thing I do is take a few laps around the trail that surrounds the cars. I like getting up close and personal with the river and the mountains and Route 11 and, most importantly, the screens. I admire to scale of the experience. There’s a gravity to seeing a movie in a space like that. Everything is massive or a small piece of something larger. It gets me in the mood to watch something with a big budget.
I’m usually not a snack guy at the movies, as I don’t like the sound of crunching taking me out of the experience, but I make an exception at the Garden. That little concession room is so classic. It’s a relic of a movie time gone by. There’s no digitized menu or anything corporate about it. It’s a time capsule. There’s also RC Cola, the best Cola.
Settling into a spot while the sun goes down adds just a little bit more atmosphere. You don’t have to check your phone to see if the movie is starting soon. The sun is your clock. It’s a kind of anticipation that’s reserved for stuff like fireworks. I live for that brand of hype. Put the phone away; something’s about to happen.
And then the movie starts, which is also cool. Seeing a movie amongst friends or with a group enhances the picture almost without fail. It’s a real moment of community to be in the room or field where a movie is happening. That space is exciting and dynamic. To me, there’s no better space to feel that than the Garden Drive-In. Some of it is nostalgia, but I’m not alone in thinking that the Garden is special.
I was there on the second night it was open this summer, and you could feel that appreciation through the size of the crowd. People were yearning for something to do, and they found it in this one place. It was a magical place to be, and I’m happy I was there.
Sam Zavada is a copy editor with The Standard-Speaker in Hazleton. He previously served as the news clerk at The Standard-Speaker, working with the obituaries and the community and lifestyle pages. Sam’s work in print dates back to his time at King’s College, where he spent two years as the editor in chief of the school’s newspaper, The Crown. Earlier in his time with The Crown, he worked as a staff writer and the entertainment manager. Contact him at email@example.com.