As we said on our Facebook page, with spring comes the opening weekend of our local drive-in theater, Central Drive-In (5113 Kent Junction Rd, Norton). A true American classic, Central Drive-In has been in operation since 1952 (and is one of only approximately 400 drive-ins left in the country).
Each year, Central Drive-In opens the season with a Free Movie Weekend, and this year was no different. Three movies for the price of…well, none? Yes, please. Around the QRE offices, “free” is our second favorite four-letter f-word. (The first is food.)
Since I’ve been married, my wife and I have never been anywhere on time. (This is what happens when you put two procrastinators together.) Thus, when we go to the Drive-In a few minutes before 9, the place was already packed. We usually park in one of the first few rows – close to the concession stand, a good view of the screen – but this time we were forced back a bit.
Oh, and a special shout-out to the jerk in the gray Mazda. You’re supposed to be able to fit two cars between the poles (which were previously used for speakers – now the sound is streamed through your car radio), not just one right in the middle. Next time be considerate of other people – especially when it’s that packed – and try not to park like a moron.
The first movie of the annual Free Movie Weekend is always a family-friendly film. This year’s was “Escape From Planet Earth” (Brendan Fraser, Rob Corddry). I don’t have a review prepared for this movie because, frankly, I didn’t get to watch it. When the movie started we went to get in line at the concession stand, and people were lined up out the door.
By the time we got our food we had missed most of the movie. This, however, is not a bad reflection on the staff at Central Drive-In. As a matter of fact, it’s a good thing (and the fault was completely ours for not getting there early). The food you order is always made fresh, and is good and hot when you get it. They have a great selection of things on their menu (hot dogs, burgers, chicken sandwiches, apple sticks, ice cream, candy, and – of course – popcorn), so you’ll want to skip dinner before you go. Just get there early, get a good spot, and get your food there. You won’t be disappointed. (Garv recommends the Deluxe Nachos and Hot Dogs!)
So I’m going to give “Escape From Planet Earth” three out of five stars, based on the fact that I actually did laugh at the few parts I got to watch.
Our stomachs full (yet still munching on popcorn), we settled in for the second movie, “Dark Skies” (Keri Russell, Josh Hamilton). While the first movie was family friendly, this one was family-creepy. The film centers around a family who has been chosen for contact by extraterrestrials.
While it’s predictable, there are a couple of good little jump-worthy scenes in this one. I wouldn’t call it horror; I’d go with “thriller” (not to be confused with Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’). The movie is rated PG-13, and I’d have to agree with that. It probably wouldn’t bother older kids, but it may be rough on some younger ones.
Because this movie is dark, watching it at the Drive-In requires all the lights to be off. There is always at least one person who has to start up their car in the middle of a movie, usually during a poorly-lit-yet-climactic scene, and their headlights will shine directly on the screen. This means that every other car there can’t see the screen. So here’s a tip to make your Drive-In experience better: If your car has daytime running lights, they’ll come on when you start the car. To avoid this, set your emergency brake! It’s that simple. You can then start your car up to run the heater/defroster/whatever, and you won’t ruin the movie for all the other patrons. Politeness goes a long way!
Because of the predictability, this movie is only getting three out of five stars. The only way you wouldn’t know what was about to happen in this movie is if you’ve been in a coma for the last 30 years and haven’t seen any modern alien movies.
Since I’m old we didn’t stay to watch the last movie (“Django Unchained“, Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz). I hear it’s really good though, so if Tarantino movies are your thing check it out (if you haven’t already).
So here’s the final breakdown for Central Drive-In:
Get there early. You can find what’s playing (as well as the start time of the first movie) on their Facebook page, or by calling (276) 679-3761. I recommend getting there around 45 minutes before the start time of the first movie. This will make sure you get a good parking spot and that you have plenty of time to get your food, make trips to the bathroom, etc, before the movie starts.
Take cash! Because of their location they can’t take debit/credit cards. I can’t say how many times I’ve been in line behind someone who was ordering then went to pay with a debit card, only to find out that they can’t. But you won’t need much cash, because they also have…
Great pricing. You can’t beat the ticket price. Obviously not every weekend is free, but even when it’s not you’re still paying the price of one ticket to get two, sometimes three movies. The food is very reasonably priced (and good).
You control your own atmosphere. If you want to talk through the movie, you can do so without bothering anyone else. If you’re a smoker, you can smoke. You can munch popcorn just as loud as you want. Can’t hear the movie? You control the volume. The only people you have to deal with are the headlight horrors and the piss-poor parkers.
They’ll be showing Iron Man 3 starting May 2nd, and you know QRE will be there. They have a game room (which is also available for parties) to keep the kids busy before the movie starts, and there are games in the concession stand as well. So come on out, and tell ‘em QRE sent you!