It’s the tail end of another long, summer holiday break, and if your house is anything like mine, the well of creative ideas to keep little minds occupied is running a little dry. Zoo? Done. Beach? Done. Grandparents? No longer taking calls.
How about something different? A night at the drive-in!
That’s right, fill the car with blankets, pillows and kids and head to one of a handful of still operating drive-in theatres around Australia.
The drive-in is a nostalgic reminder of when land was cheaper and Australian car-culture was at its prime. At the peak of their popularity, there were 330 drive-in theatres operating around Australia. Now there are fewer than ten.
Things have changed from when Potsy and Ralph would borrow Mr C’s Desoto to ‘entertain’ the Polasky twins though. Once the domain of B-Grade horror and science-fiction movies for canoodling couples, the drive-in is now very much a family destination.
Out with Peckinpah, in with Pixar then…
Melbourne has three operating sites: Coburg, Dandenong and Dromana.
I’ve been taking my daughter to the Dromana drive-in every school holidays since she was four, it’s usually just the two of us – a daddy-daughter night out.
Dromana is about an hour drive south of Melbourne, on the Mornington Peninsula. It’s a very easy trip, the freeway passes right next to the three-screen complex and being an ‘evening’ activity, it’s a great way to string out a good-behaviour reward all day.
Thinking a night at the movies is the thing for you? Here are some tips for a successful movie experience:
Arrive early to secure a good spot. With daylight-savings sessions starting around 8.30pm, aim to arrive at least 30-minutes earlier. On a warm night the line of cars can snake out the driveway.
Got wagon? If ever there was a place where a big boot comes in handy, it’s the drive-in. If you have a choice, bring an SUV or a wagon and clear out all your clobber before you leave home. Bonus points for a ute with a blow-up mattress in the back.
Back it in. The layout of the theatre has banks of ramps that angle the car to point at the screen. Back the car in (particularly if you have a wagon) so you can sit inside and watch with the boot open.
Bring your own comfort. We go on about firm bolstering and support here at CarAdvice, but sitting through 90-minutes of Alvin and the Chipmunks needs something more cozy. Pillows, doonas, blankets make it fun for the kids too.
Know your settings. Modern cars, with always-on running lamps and push-button ignitions are a lot more fiddly to put into ‘drive-in mode’. Sound comes through the car radio rather than the old clip-on speaker, so you need to have some power on. Make sure your lights are all-the-way off and that no other accessory systems are running when the radio is on. Flat batteries are standard fare, but don’t be that guy.
Have fun! The drive-in is a great night out and fun way to finish up the school holidays.
Are you a fan? Do you leave after the first session or stick around for a second movie while the kids snooze in the back?
Let us know in the comments below!