But as long as we have to put up with the less-than-pleasant side effects of living in a car-loving town, we might as well enjoy the unique summer fun made possible by cars, trucks and, yes, SUVs. On a breezy night, after the sun has gone down and the temperature has returned to bearable, rolling down windows and watching a movie outdoors allows people to take advantage of the good things about summer weather. Some people bring grills. Some bring lawn chairs. Other don't have to: Pickup truck beds loaded with fluffy pillows beat the pants off of lawn chairs any day.
At the Boulevard Drive-In -- the oldest in the area and the only movie theater of any kind in Wyandotte County -- speakers play Patsy Cline songs and familiar tunes from The Wizard of Oz before the spotlights dim. A booming announcer makes a "white trash" joke, and the crowd cheers. "At the indoor theaters, they've always got the air on too high, so it's too cold, and there's always someone next to you blabbing the whole time," says Wes Neal, the drive-in's current owner. (He's worked there since 1954.) The fussy kids kicking strangers' seats at indoor theaters? At drive-ins, their parents are the ones sitting in front of them. Besides, they can always go play on a jungle gym.
The metro area has yet to get a drive-in with a swimming pool (like one in Austin, Texas). But people who want to get wet at the drive-in could just go on a stormy night. Although rain-drenched windshields can be a viewing challenge, thunder and lightning add dramatic effect to the movie. One tempestuous night last week saw only six cars parked at the Twin Drive-In at the beginning of Spider-Man (which has been playing to sold-out drive-in crowds on mild weekend nights). By intermission, only three cars remained. Lightning bolts darted across the sky, thunder shook the cars, and those strong enough braved the sprint to the concession stand across the deserted gravel lot. It was an exciting place to watch Tobey Maguire kick ass. And, because the Twin Drive-In shows two movies at once (hence the name), Spider-Man fans had the option of keeping an eye on The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood through their rear-view mirrors.
Unfortunately, running a car's windshield wipers, defogger and stereo system with the ignition off drains a battery pretty efficiently. It's a good thing drive-in personnel come prepared with jumper cables.