As with the Tasmanian Wolves, Black Rhinos, Polar Bears, and VHS, we are witnessing a mass extinction: the death of an American Icon, the Drive-In Movie Theater. These once plentiful meccas of entertainment and fun are being lost amidst the Digital Evolution.

I'm not sure how accurate this number is, but Wikipedia reports that there are only 357 active drive-in theaters left in America (as of 2013). At their peak in the 1960's, there were close to 4,000 drive-in theaters across our great nation.

And if we're using Wikipedia's numbers, we have to subtract one more. The Grand Vu Theater right here in Twin Falls just closed.


Now that film is primarily distributed via digital download instead of 35mm film, the remaining drive-in theaters are being required to purchase expensive new digital projectors that can run upwards of $100,000. Many drive-ins simply can't afford that and are shutting down. Some, like the Motor Vu here in Twin Falls, are scouring the film industry for the remaining 35mm film prints to show... but those won't be around for long.

When I was a kid, my mom and dad would put my sister and I in our pajamas, throw blankets and sleeping bags in the back of our Ford Bronco, pop giant bags of popcorn, and take us all to the drive-in in Craig, Colorado. The first film was usually something family friendly and the second feature was for the grown ups. I don't remember watching many of the movies, but I always remember having a good time.

Now empty Grand Vu Drive-In Theater. This photo makes me sad. Image: Interstate Amusement/
Now empty Grand Vu Drive-In Theater. This photo makes me sad. Image: Interstate Amusement/

That drive-in in Craig closed before I made it to the 6th grade. Then the drive-in theater in Steamboat Springs, the next town over, closed as well. When my family moved to Elko, Nevada a few years later we found out that there was a drive-in theater there, but it had just closed as well.

It seemed like I would never be able to go to the drive-in again. Until I moved to Twin Falls!

I love taking my family to the drive-in. It's not just a movie, it's an event. We load up blankets, chairs, pillows and settle in for a fun night. There's simply nothing like it anymore.

Have you seen the video of kids trying to figure out what a Walkman is? Soon we'll have to explain what a drive-in was to our kids in the same way. Take your kids to the drive-in, or yourself if you've never been, while you still can. It's a piece of Americana that won't be with us much longer.

We're witnessing the extinction of an American icon. Don't let it go quietly into the night.

This weekend the Motor Vu in Twin Falls has an awesome double feature of summer blockbusters: see 'Godzilla' (PG13), and 'The Amazing Spider-man 2' (PG13) starting at 9:15p. Adults get in for $6, and kids 5 to 12 are just $1.

I'll be there. Will you?

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