Friday, May 31, 2013

Day 19 - Watching a Drive-in Movie

I have never been to a drive-in movie theater. The idea of watching a movie outdoors has always appealed to me, but, until now, going to a drive-in movie was just one of those things I hoped would occur some day. I knew I would likely enjoy the experience, but I was never motivated enough to go out of my way to find a drive-in movie theater and make it happen. After a break in the week long period of rain we recently endured and a little motivation from my ongoing focus on trying new things, today provided a chance to finally see a movie in an outdoor theater.  As a result, I put my plans to experience a drive-in movie into motion, and checked off another "I have never..." event from my list.

Following another hectic workday, I made my way home this evening and got prepared to make the 55 mile trek to the Big Sky drive-in movie theater outside the Wisconsin Dells. Having made plans with some friends, Patrick and Angelica, I waited for them to arrive by relaxing a bit in my backyard. While earlier weather forecasts had called for overcast skies and the threat of more rain this evening, the weather broke during the afternoon in a very noticeable way. The sun was shining, clouds were few and far between, and the temperature was nearly perfect in the mid-70s. It was clear tonight would be an amazing night to watch a drive-in movie.

Shortly after Patrick and Angelica arrived, we packed up our cars and headed north toward the Big Sky drive-in theater. The drive proved the perfect setup for the night's experience as a heavy, golden sun slowly sank closer to the horizon with each mile we logged. In time, we arrived at the drive-in theater as dusk set in, and we finalized our choice of movie with a few quick calls back a forth out our driver side windows. With the choice of a Fast and Furious 6/Hangover III or Epic/Star Trek Into Darkness double feature, we chose to watch the former. Although the Fast and Furious franchise is not a series of films I generally take interest in, I figured the choice was the better of the two. Additionally, Patrick and Angelica expressed a clear preference for the Fast and Furious/Hangover combo, which made the choice easy to make.

Ready for the show
After paying for our tickets we drove in to the theater and found two parking spaces in the second row of the fanned drive-in "seating." With our vehicles side by side, Patrick, Angelica, Rachael, and I started unloading the goodies we had brought with us and started making plans for how we wanted to watch the movie. We all agreed it would be best to make the most of the green space to the right of our vehicles, so we situated some folding chairs and blankets in a small semi-circle facing the blank aged white rectangle that would serve as our screen. Over the next few minutes, each of us periodically disappeared to pick up a few items from the "snack bar" located at the center of the property. A few burgers, some nachos, a little cotton candy, and some drinks later, we were geared up for the show to start.

Minutes passed as the sky darkened and the sounds of night began appearing in hushed tones. Then, without warning, the blank white screen came to life with color. The quality of the picture against the aged surface was surprisingly good and, after some tuning and volume adjustments, the audio coming from our car speakers proved decent enough to make it a good show. Fast and Furious 6 began as I expected, with a quickly developing plot, a lot of action, and, of course, fancy cars. As the movie pressed forward, the predictability of the plot and the gratuitous amounts of fights and explosions reminded me why I usually avoid such movies; however, I was determined to make the most of my first drive-in movie experience, so I tried to keep up with the references to previous events in the franchise and to stay interested in the development of the story.

About 45 minutes into the movie I realized my efforts to feign interest in the happenings before me weren't working as I had hoped. I had attempted to "fake it until I make it" regarding my interest in the Fast and Furios storyline, but it simply wasn't working. Although this may serve as a highly negative occurrence in any other cinematic experience, my fading interest actually facilitated one of the best moments of the night. Disinterested in who Vin Diesel was fighting or racing at that given moment, I leaned back in my chair and looked upward. The sky had turned pitch black with the night, ushering in an abundant display of stars that wrapped all around us. I slowly glanced across the night sky before bringing my sight toward the horizon at the back of the drive-in property. Against the backdrop of a periodic luminescence caused by lightning in clouds miles away fire flies danced through the air high above the green space below. With a slight smile on my face, I also took notice of the gentle breeze blowing through the air and the sounds of the leaves rustling in response. The audio of the movie ever present in the background, I was intrigued at how the natural surroundings seemed to enhance the viewing experience. Being among the summer air, the stars, and the trees added a certain degree of depth to the entire experience and, although I wasn't necessarily into the movie, I found myself thinking about how much I liked the experience. In that moment I realized I had put off watching a movie at a drive-in theater for far too long.

The Hangover III... Just begging to be watched.
We remained outside for the rest of Fast and Furious 6, which ended about as I expected after the early plot developments. Unfortunately, the movie ran much longer than any of us prepared for, and several members of our party were finding it hard to stay awake. With our group fading fast, we decided to pack away our things and head home for the night just as The Hangover III was starting. While we did not get to see both movies, my first time watching a movie at a drive-in movie theater was a great experience. The ability to sit outside on a beautiful summer evening and still enjoy a full cinema experience made me feel like the drive-in theater was time and money well spent; even if I didn't necessarily enjoy the movie we saw. As a result, I know I will make trips to the drive-in theater a more frequent occurrence in the future. I just hope my next visit will include a movie that I can actually get into.

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