As outdoor screens lose steam across nation, South High cinema reels on
I’ll never forget my first drive-in theater experience. It was the summer of 1978, and my siblings took me to see a double feature of “Jaws 2” and “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” at the 42 Drive-In in Brunswick, Ohio.
I was 8 years old, and I was terrified. But I loved it and returned again and again until the old theater eventually closed, along with so many others like it across the country.
According to DriveInMove.com, there are just 330 drive-in theaters in operation in the United States, two dozen of which are in Ohio. During the happy days of the 1950s, the site says, there were nearly 4,000 such theaters.
The sole outdoor cinema in Columbus is the South Drive-in Theater, at 3050 S. High St., which opened in 1950. Customers here have a choice between two screens, each offering a double feature, one of which seems more geared toward families.
In July, my daughter and I saw a first-run showing of “Hotel Transylvania 3” and “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.”
We arrived 30 minutes before the start of the first movie and found a decent parking spot in the third row. Early birds lined the coveted front row, savoring unobstructed views and a lush lawn, where kids played in the waning shadow of the big screen.
We enjoyed making a comfy spot in the back of our SUV and watching the movies through the hatchback.
My daughter liked what she called an “old-timey” feel, and I liked sharing a childhood tradition with her.
Another perk is that children ages 5 to 11 get in for $2, while kids ages 4 and younger are free.
Disappointments were expected and included latecomers with blinding headlights, inconsistent sound from the old speakers, wafting cigarette smoke and pesky mosquitos, despite our attempts to repel them with spray.
Speaking of bugs, the theater also hosts a giant flea market on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, from March through November. Arrive early for the best finds. Dealers begin setting up at 5 a.m. and most continue selling until 1 p.m.