How does operating a drive-in theater influence one's taste in movies? As part of our feature on the drive-in's 75th anniversary, we decided to ask theater owners across the nation about their favorite films, which flicks are best viewed outdoors, and which ones should never be seen from the backseat.
You show movies for a living. What's your favorite film of all time?
Paul Javener, founder, Stardust Drive-In, Chetek, Wis.: My and my wife's favorite movies are Independence Day, Cars, and Twister. They are all in both of our top 10 lists.
Mark Goodman, owner, 66 Drive-In Theatre, Carthage, Mo.:Cars is probably my number one. My favorite movies are the animated ones that are enjoyable for the entire family to watch.
Donna Saunders, founder, Field of Dreams Drive-In Theater, Liberty Center, Ohio: My husband, Rod, likes Brian's Song because it's sports-related and a very moving story. I liked Mamma Mia because it was a fun, music-filled chick flick. We are both easily entertained and enjoy different genres, but we don't have much time during the drive-in season to actually watch the movies because we are too busy working on our business.
Ben Smyth, co-founder, DRV-IN, New York: That's a difficult one. I'd say American Beauty, but that's not really a great drive-in film.
What do you think are the best movies for a drive-in setting? How about the worst?
Paul Javener: The best movie for a drive-in setting was Twister. The worst was Signs, because it was just too dark.
Mark Goodman: I think that all movies are great to watch at a drive-in, although the movie Twister was most likely terrifying for audiences at a drive-in during volatile weather conditions [a drive-in is destroyed in Twister].
Donna Saunders: The best are Caddyshack, Animal House, and Grease, and any good musical like Hairspray or Mamma Mia. The worst is Star Wars, because my husband and I both think it's best suited to be viewed in an enclosed, controlled environment.
Ben Smyth: I know it's pretty stereotypical, but I always liked Jaws. With any drive-in movie, you want to have some kind of suspense, and I think it's a good movie to see with friends. It's one of those movies that you can talk over, and you can laugh about certain things now. A good drive-in movie to me is something I've seen before. Unlike a regular movie, you can sit and discuss it with whoever you're in the car with. I don't know if it's today's generation or what, but some of the older films aren't as fast-paced and can make for a long sitting. We've shown movies like the old Manchurian Candidate that definitely don't have the pace of today's films. It's still a great film, but I'm not sure if it's something someone should watch at a drive-in.
Drive-ins get plenty of mentions -- realistic or not -- in pop culture. What was the worst or most memorable depiction on a drive-in that you've seen on film?
Mark Goodman: A drive-in in Cars. In that movie, the drive-in theatre was resurrected along the famous Route 66, just like our drive-in.
Paul Javener: The most interesting depiction of a drive-in was in Back to the Future Part III, where he drives the car at the screen. It was a beautiful drive-in, but the theater had no parking ramps for some reason.
Donna Saunders: There is a musical scene in Grease that comes to mind where the kids are gossiping from car to car, because it depicts the playfulness that happens, spontaneously, when friends come to enjoy a drive-in experience.
Ben Smyth: I can't really think of any that depict drive-ins. I guess Back to the Future Part III was a good one.