We were escorted through the doors by ushers who wore special suits and gloves. The theater had dark velvet covered seats and enormous velvet curtains covered the screen. There was an atmosphere of exited anticipation and whispered voices. When the lights went down the curtains automatically drew up and to the sides and the show began, often with a cartoon. The first few seconds set the stage for a big presentation with the MGM lion roar, 20th Century Fox's trumpets, Columbia's torch lady, Universal's spinning globe, or Warner Brothers' fanfare shield. The longest movie I recall was Gone with the Wind at over three hours. It and many shows had intermissions to allow bathroom breaks and a chance to buy more at the concession stand. Because we had to take the bus home, we had to plan our showtime to fit the bus schedule.
I recall one time a group of the hunters' wives and daughters went downtown to see Mary Poppins. It was fall and the dads and sons were away for the weekend hunting. Later we talked about the movie many times, and it was alway fun to try to say "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious." Gloria Parker, a 1950s Big Band singer and musician used the word "supercalafajalistickespeealadojus" in her 1949 song titled "The Super Song" written as a fox trot. She sued Disney over the copyright and eventually lost when an old Syracuse University newspaper from 1931 was found that used an almost identical word, proving it was not the exclusive creation of Parker.
About a year after high school a childhood friend visited while on leave from the Army. I thought it would be nice to go out to dinner and see a movie. We ate at Bonanza's Steakhouse and afterward I just picked the most convenient movie time and location. It turned out to be Ryan's Daughter. The story line and some of the scenes were quite embarrasing to watch with a boy I hardly knew anymore.
If we got there early, there was a playground at the front right under the screen where the kids could swing, slide, or go on the merry-go-round until the movie started. Showtime was as soon as it got dark. We had to roll down all the windows to try to keep from overheating. That meant we might be fighting the mosquito brigade though. If it started to rain we would put the wipers on for awhile but sometimes we just left if it was a heavy downpour. In the middle back of the field was the concession stand where we could get cokes and popcorn, and use the bathroom. My brother and I usually fell asleep before the movie was over, especially if it was a double feature.
Dad picked most of the movies and Westerns and World War II were his favorites. We saw almost everything with John Wayne like The Alamo, and The Magnificent Seven, How the West was Won, Lawrence of Arabia, Mutiny on the Bounty, etc. If the show wasn't a musical or comedy my mother didn't always go with us.
As we were in line waiting to enter the drive in we occasionally saw a group open their trunk and sneak some passengers inside. They were trying to avoid paying for each person. As soon as they got through the ticket booth, the trunk passengers were freed. There were special nights when the entrance fee was one price for as many people as you could pack in the car, or truck and some took every advantage.
Our nearest revamped drive in boasts three screens, double features, and is open year round. There is surround sound and a car stereo FM channel. Bringing your own food is encouraged, or you can visit the 50's Cafe.
Finding valuable family friendly movies is becoming more difficult. I remember when the rating system started in 1968. We were shocked to realize there would be so many adult/mature movies available.
We rarely go to the theater now, preferring to wait until we can stream a good show in our home. No dressing up is required, we can pause for bathroom breaks, and the popcorn is only a microwave away.
"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen,
since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:18