|The screen once lighted by the stars of Hollywood
faced the ground as if shamed by the Trail Drive-in's loss
of crowds. The projection house had weathered miserably and
wrecking crews that had already leveled other parts of
the theater grounds at Belle had begun to take their toll.
The desolation wasn't a scene
from a movie playing at the Trail — it was the real
thing — and the demolition may be complete by
today. Land that once sported a booming theater is now a construction
site -for a retail lumber store. This drive-in has yielded
to the lumber business. But the fading of the Trail by no
means marks the end of the drive-in movie business,
at least so far as Frank Gunnoe, manager of Owens Drive-In
at Marmet is concerned.
"It's different from being
in an indoor theater - people are much more relaxed."
Gunnoe said of the business
he's been involved in for nearly 15 years. "They can
relax and enjoy the movies. The kids can run in and out of
the concession stand. If they want to smoke, they can smoke;
if they want to drink a beer, they can drink a beer."
The 51-year-old Gunnoe recalls
the 1940s when cars crowded into the outdoor theaters. He's
seen business when it was good and bad. movies at their worst,
and people of all ages pass through the ticket booth. Different
kinds of movies attract different kinds of people, he said.
"With H-rated movies, you get the teenagers, younger
people. More sexually explicit movies — "raunchy
ones" — attract older moviegoers. Westerns, once
very popular, now have trouble getting an audience.
Drive-ins rarely get the first-run
movies showing at downtown theaters because those travel the
before being offered to drive-ins. For Gunnoe. competition
must often wait until such films are washed up indoors. Attitudes
about drive-in theaters change often. In the 1950s, a very
popuar era for them, drive-ins didn't have the bad image they
had assumed by the late 1960s. Gunnoe said.
Business this summer has been good, Gunnoe said, noting that
nearly 1,300 people went to his drive-in one night last weekend.
Friday and Saturday nights usually attract about 1100; weeknights
July 27 was the first night for
"The Van" and "The Pom Pom Girls" at St.
Albans' Valley Drive-In. The grounds seemed crowded for a weeknight — one car
filled with teenagers, the next overflowing with small children,
parents and others who looked like grandparents. It's
doubtful either of the movies would claim Oscars. Without
seeing the title line from the first film it was not clear
whether the movies were playing in the order listed in
the paper. But the second one was undeniably "The Van."
The recent radio tune about the guy and his Chevy van served
as the theme song — rather a quaint idea. Except the
guy in the movie had areally nice, bright yellow Dodge!....
Charleston Daily Mail