Drive-in offers a magical experience

Drive-in offers a magical experienceBy BRIAN COSNER, News Review Staff Writer

What do you do when there’s a global pandemic but you run an indoor movie theater? Well you grab a projector, open up your parking lot, and turn it into a drive-in!

Our increasingly on-demand world, with a dozen streaming services at our finger tips from the comfort of our home, has inversely created a demand for “retro” experiences. A niche that’s filled nicely by a drive-in movie. Plus – extroverts get some semblance of socialization under the current restrictions, and introverts get to stay in their car. It’s a win-win.

I attended the Ridgecrest Cinemas’ first drive-in over the summer. They were showing “The Goonies” and the parking lot opened at 6:30 so I figured I should get in line an hour early. I ended up behind about half-a-mile of cars.

But despite a sub-optimal vantage point, and the theater working through the kinks of it’s first drive-in attempt, we had a terrific time. So I was eager to attend again when the theater announced its screening of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” earlier this month.

I’ve been a fan of the books since they came out. I read the first volume when I was in 4th grade and the last as soon as it was available from the library when I was 17. I’ve made my own butterbeer, can explain the rules of quiddich, I’ve attended house cups and have even donned the sorting hat (I’m a Ravenclaw). And if you don’t know what any of that means, then congratulations on having a real life.

Having learned our lesson from the Goonies experience – my wife and I showed up two hours early and were easily the first ones in line. Which turned out to be a tad excessive because people didn’t start trickling in until after 6:00. But we had an audiobook with us and Ursala K. Leguin’s storytelling is as good of company as can be found.

After obtaining a prime viewing spot right at 6:30, we had another hour before the movie actually started – which was plenty of time to finish our book and strategize about snack consumption. We settled on buttered popcorn, Reese’s Pieces, Red Vines (we basic, I know) and shared a soft drink.

I like half-diet Dr. Pepper. I’m extremely picky, but fortunately they were extremely accommodating. Free refills also apply to their largest size of popcorn and employees have a limited contact process. The theater also had it’s full snack bar available – nachos, hot dogs, etc. – for more substantial appetites.

The movie began with the lilting melody by the always-amazing John Williams and the whimsical winter setting almost made me forget it was summer in the Mojave desert (as long as I ignored my car thermometer which displayed 99 degrees).

Now, the Harry Potter movies are not necessarily the pinnacle of film making. But the familiarity of the Hero’s Journey, the triumph of love over evil, and the stellar cast make the lovingly-adapted movies enjoyable for virtually anyone.

But it scarcely matters what the movie is. It’s the privilege of having a Friday evening off. It’s forgetting about nutrition for a minute to have a taste of your childhood. It’s spending time with someone you love and being able to enjoy a movie as intently as you’d like. It’s the option to tune the FM dial to the movie sound or watch along with Pink Floyd to see if it syncs up.

The Ridgecrest Cinemas drive-ins don’t cost anything but a little bit of planning. Though I strongly recommend picking buying some treats from their snack bar to help support the business through these times.

With spooky season upon us, the theater will be showing the animated family comedy Hotel Transylvania this Friday, Oct. 9, with the lot opening at 6:30 p.m. SUVs, trucks and larger vehicles will be asked to park toward the back.

For anybody with who has the opportunity – I highly recommend the drive-in experience as something a little different to do this weekend. I know we are all eager to get back to “normal.” But as Dumbledore said, “it does not do well to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”

Pictured: Young Harry Potter fans dressed up for the last drive-in screening at Ridgecrest Cinemas. The theater will show Hotel Transylvania Friday, Oct. 9. The parking lot opens at 6:30 p.m. — Photo by Brian Cosner

Story First Published: 2020-10-09