According to Google (is there anything Google doesn’t know?) June 6th was the anniversary of the first drive in movie theater. And after digging around a bit I found some interesting facts about our home state and the drive-in phenomenon…
Ahh drive in theaters…neat places where one could enjoy a movie in the privacy and convenience of their own car. For Teenagers of the past these places were like the clubs of today. The drive in theater was a place to go, see, and be seen. Much more than a hangout, these places were vital to the social lives of many and many people today should thank drive in theaters for their very existence.
If granddad had never taken grandmamma out to one, there might not be a you! :) I am ashamed to say that I have never been to a true drive in theater, the closet thing would be a projector screen at a fourth of July fest one year when I was 10, but I would love to have the experience.
I guess I was just born a little too late, had I been around about 40 years earlier I could have visited the one the used to be on highway 501, on the lot that is now the home of the Outer Limits Restaurant. It’s on your right if you’re leaving Conway and heading towards Aynor and right before you reach what is referred to as the “Four Mile” community. All that’s left are two rusted steel poles that used to hold the screen that now sit in the woods behind the restaurant.
A little known fact is that South Carolina was a record holder when it came to drive in theaters, according to Iventors.About.com, Bamberg, South Carolina shared the title of having the smallest drive in theater in the United States with Harmony Pennsylvania. Both theaters could only hold 50 cars in their lot.
According to History.com, most theaters showed B-movies and old releases with only a few theaters showing A-list or up to the minute films. The theaters hit their heydays in the mid to late 50’s and continued strong until the mid-70’s when video rentals and mass amounts of sit-in theaters over-ran the humble drive in trend. It is believed that there exist only around 500 theaters still in use in America today.
It seems that the closet drive in’s to us living here in Conway are the Monetta Drive-in Theatre, in Monetta (Aiken county) South Carolina and the Plaza 21 Drive-in Theatre in Beaufort / Burton (Beaufort County) South Carolina. Both drive-ins play up to date films all summer, and have concessions. These would be quite a drive for some old fashioned fun but maybe as part of a summer road trip, visiting one of these places would be a very cool memory.
Sadly, I don’t think I will be able to visit a drive in theater anytime soon. The days where the drive-in was tops have faded away and the few that remain have become tourist attractions themselves. Now all that’s left are memories of summer nights spent eating popcorn in the front seat of Dad’s Buick, and seeing a movie on less than a dollar. (Try that at Franks, they will laugh you right out of the parking lot)