Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Night at the Aut-O-Rama Drive-in

Well, on Friday night we made it out to the Aut-O-Rama Drive-in in North Ridgeville for the first time this season. It was a good night to go. A little brisk, but with no chance of rain and it being too early for mosquitoes, it was too good to pass up. (Plus I wanted to see Iron Man 2.)

The Aut-O-Rama is a place that I don't remember ever going to as a kid. I remember seeing it from the Ohio Turnpike while on the way to or from something else, but my drive-in memories are pretty much limited to the long-gone Lorain Drive-in (on US 6) and the Tower Drive-in (on Lake Avenue in Elyria).

It has only been since the late 1980's that I have made it a point to go as many times as possible each season. The biggest problem has been finding a movie worth seeing, and believe me, my wife and I have seen some real cinematic dogs at the Aut-O-Rama through the years. (Space Balls, anyone? How about Howie Mandel in Walk Like a Man? My wife still hasn't forgiven me for making her sit through that one!)

Part of the fun of going to the drive-in for me is the preparation. Even though I'm a cub scout drop out, I believe in the motto: be prepared. Indeed, getting ready for a night at the drive-in is like going on a camping trip. I bring along chairs, a small folding table (to hold the goodies), a radio, flashlight, bug spray, several big blankets, a few small blankets, rain coats and an umbrella. I'm sure watching us set up 'camp' is a source of amusement for people parked next to us – especially when we bail out halfway through the movie due to the cold and head for the car!)

Oh I forgot to mention: I also bring Pic when I remember! I have yet to ever light one, but after watching the 'animated' commercials for years on the big screen there (saw it again Friday night) I felt obligated to buy this fine product! Any commercial that uses an animated mosquito that drops dead and immediately produces a lily in his hands is okay with me! (Watch the cartoon below!)

I really don't mind the Aut-O-Rama's restriction on bringing in outside food (no food can be brought in unless you purchase a special permit for five bucks.) The foodstuffs are part of the fun! It's the only time that I eat Snowcaps (nonpareils) with no guilt. And this time, we purchased the biggest size popcorn they had at the concession stand ("Glutton size, please," I told the concession worker.) To our surprise, we discovered that the huge plastic bucket with handy handle comes with a free refill. You merely bring it back whenever – even next season – and they will refill it once for free. So we have that going for us.

We still seem to have trouble tuning in the right FM station to get the sound. Even though the workers tell you the channel when you come in (91.9 FM for screen one, 90.7 FM for screen two), when the Star Spangled Banner starts playing and the 1940's era flag footage is projected onscreen, it's never the right channel!

I still prefer the old speakers that hung on the windows - it was part of the ambience. The Aut-O-Rama actually has a few of them in the parking spots close to the concession stand and they seem to be in pretty good shape. (See photo at left.) But most of them are just rusted relics.

All in all, it was fun sitting under the stars watching the flick, and there weren't even as many trains as usual going by to obliterate the sound temporarily (although Iron Man 2 was so confusing it really didn't matter!) For me the best part is that timeless feeling that you get when you're there. You forget that it's 2010 and you start to believe that you're back in high school again – which is a nice feeling when your carefree youth is rapidly vanishing in the rear view mirror.

See you at the drive-in! And don't forget the Pic!


-Alan D Hopewell said...

My last-ever visit to a drive-in was the Auto-Rama; me and a couple of friends went to see "TERMINATOE 2: JUDGEMENT DAY" and "POINT BREAK" back in August of 1991.

mickey said...

For a while the drive in permitted outside food if you paid a $5 fee but that ended a season or two ago. According to the them they make little money on ticket sales and rely on sales at the concession stand to turn a profit. I always make it a point to spend a few bucks when I go and the pizza here is good.
A couple of years ago the movie distributors went all digital and theaters had to invest in an expensive digital projector. This was even costlier for drive in projectors. I'm glad the Aut-O-Rama was able to make the switch and survive. Our other local drive in The Memphis Drive In closed around 2006 despite doing great business when the neighboring American Greetings office wanted the land. Now American Greetings is moving :p