But for Bill Jelen, who grew up in the east Ohio town of Salem, even the '80s were golden. "When I was 16, the drive-in was the thing to do," explains the 37-year-old father, whose website, Bill Jelen's Drive-In Theatre Page, details Northeast Ohio's rich drive-in history.
Jelen's passion led him to explore the region's outdoor theaters, snapping photos as he went. His young children helped fuel the obsession -- after some initial reluctance. "The first time we went, they [said], 'We're going to watch movies in the car? No way!'"
To Jelen, each of the area's drive-ins has its merits. "The Memphis is the only triple-screen drive-in in Ohio," he says. "And because it's owned by the same guy who owns the Memphis Kiddie Park across the street, [its] playground has some of the most phenomenal old-style equipment that you'll ever find."
If it's between-movie treats you're interested in, Jelen suggests North Ridgeville's Aut-O-Rama. "I think they have the best concession food of anyone in Northeast Ohio. They have a great meatball sub."
Jelen spends most of his time at Ravenna's Midway Twin, which features a display case of drive-in artifacts (speakers, a portable heater). But it's not just nostalgia that's filling the lots, according to Midway Manager Pat Marxin. Drive-ins have come full circle, he says, with families once again making regular trips: "There's a huge number of minivans out there."
Not surprisingly, showing quality films helps business. "If you don't have first-run movies, people won't come," Marxin sighs. "Maybe when these kids become teenagers, we can finally see a sequel to I Eat Your Flesh."
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