66 Drive-In Theatre
There’s something special – almost magical – about watching a movie on a big screen on a warm summer night while the moon and stars shine overhead.
We’re lucky that there’s a place just 20 minutes away from Joplin where we can have this magical experience – at 66 Drive-In Theatre in Carthage.
We took the kids there this past weekend for their first drive-in experience, and we all had a great time.
Each weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) during its season (April through mid-September), 66 Drive-InTheatre plays a double feature. The movies that are selected are family-friendly, and are posted on the drive-in’s website by the Tuesday before the weekend that they are played.
The gates open an hour before the movie begins. Call or check the website for times before you go, as they are adjusted according to sunset times. A friend of mine had been there a few weeks ago and arrived 20 minutes before the movie began. Hers was the last car let in, so she advised me to get there when the gates opened.
We arrived five minutes after the gates opened (almost on time), and here’s what the line looked like.
Daunting, but it moved quickly. Besides, being in line allowed us to take some photos of the cool vintage neon sign.
Another magical quality about 66 Drive-In Theatre is the price of admission:it cost less than $25 for the four of us to be able to see two movies. That’s even cheaper than the cost of a matinee at a regular movie theater! Just be sure to bring enough of good old-fashioned paper money, since cash is the only form of payment that the drive-in accepts.
By the way, the movies shown are ones that are currently at the theaters. Our double feature was Godzilla and Blended. I couldn’t have picked a more perfect first drive-in movie for my kids besides Godzilla, right? Check out this photo of the overgrown lizard’s foot demolishing part of San Francisco.
We parked in the center, about five rows from the back of the lot, and we had a good view of the screen. There are steel posts next to each parking space, and I looked at ours to see where the speaker was located. You see, the last time I went to a drive-in I was a teenager, and the movie’s sound came through the speaker next to our car.
But technology has changed over the past few decades, and the drive-in now uses radio frequency to broadcast the movie’s sound. So, we tuned our truck’s radio to 106.5 and opened the windows so we could hear it. Next time, we will bring a radio so we don’t have to use the truck’s battery.
Looking around, I saw many people sitting on folding chairs outside their vehicles, but some remained inside their vehicles with the windows down. We, however, were nestled together on an inflatable mattress tucked into the bed of my husband’s truck (it was his brilliant idea, and it was utterly cozy).
There was a lot of activity in the parking lot for the first 15 minutes of the movie, but then everyone seemed to settle down. In fact, there were a few times that I looked around and it was so dark and still that the only thing I could hear was the movie, and the only thing I could see was the screen, the moon and the stars (and Mars!). It was so peaceful.
What’s great about a seeing a movie at a drive-in is that you can continue to watch the movie while you get something to eat. The concession stand at66 Drive-In Theatre serves items like hot dogs, barbecue sandwiches, nachos, popcorn, candy and drinks. You are allowed to bring your own food and non-alcoholic drinks in, but the money made at the concession stand helps pay for the maintenance of this classic theater. So consider buying some snacks to help preserve a bit of history.
Most of the structures at the drive-in are the same as when the theater opened in 1949: the neon sign out front, the ticket booth, the concession stand, the playground, and the 66-foot high movie screen house (the movie screen itself has been updated). The drive-in operated from 1949 through 1985. After a restoration, it reopened in 1998, and in 2003 it was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places.
Our night at66 Drive-In Theatre ended around 11 PM, right after Godzilla defeated some giant moth creature. There was an intermission between movies and I thought we would be fighting traffic to leave the parking lot, but most people appeared to be staying for the second feature.
As we were driving back to Joplin, I asked everyone what they thought of the drive-in. Aside from not understanding the plot of Godzilla (does anyone, ever?), they all said they liked the experience and thought it felt a bit like camping.
We decided that this is one place that will make it on our summer bucket list every year.
Rain or shine, movies are played at 17231 Old 66 Boulevard in Carthage Click here to visit 66 Drive-In’s website, and click here to see its Facebook page.
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