News Column

Night of nostalgia at Wellfleet drive-in

June 21, 2013


June 21--EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to correct the headline, which had the wrong town for the event. The drive-in movie theater is in Wellfleet, however, the double feature was part of the Provincetown International Film Festival festivities.

WELLFLEET -- Pauline Leduc won't repeat her favorite memory from a drive-in movie theater.

What the Provincetown woman would say, however, was that she came to the Provincetown International Film Festival's "Night at the Drive-In" event Thursday for the movies and because she "loved the era" of drive-ins.

She also was quick to point out the Wellfleet Drive-In Theatre's selection of snack bar junk foods as a highlight.

"I'm a vegetarian, but not at the drive-in," she said. "I had a hot dog."

Even in this digital age, the love of outdoor movie going was in the air, as droves of Cape Codders turned out for Thursday's event.

At the Wellfleet Drive-In Theatre -- the only theater of its kind on Cape Cod -- moviegoers listened to stereo sound over the radio and watched the double feature projected ahead of them onto a 100-foot-by-44-foot screen.

"Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" began the evening, followed by "iSteve," a comedic, fictional look at the life of the late Apple magnate Steve Jobs.

The festival, which kicked off Wednesday and continues through Sunday, presents domestic and international features, documentaries and short films in venues across Provincetown. This marks the festival's 15th year.

The drive-in recently underwent a major technological change. The theater now works with digital projections after discontinuing the use of film last year, a change that has made movies appear up to twice as bright, said the drive-in's co-owner, John Vincent.

But the basic components of the drive-in experience have remained the same, said moviegoer Teri Sparks, who said she's been coming to the theater since she was a little girl in the 1960s and '70s and who now lives in Eastham, just over the fence from the theater.

"It's just familiar," she said. "It makes you feel at home."

Moviegoers on Thursday took different seating strategies: Some brought along their own foldable chairs to set up beside their parked car, others cuddled in blankets tucked into open hatchbacks, and still others took to the privacy of reclined car seats.

They had the chance to listen to the movie through the theater's original speakers -- about the size and shape of a meatloaf and dating back to 1957 -- which hung from the upright poles at each of the drive-in's 710 parking spots. Some still work, and some don't, so audio can also be played through the car radio.

Drive-in rules are simple: Don't park in front of a car that's smaller than yours. And don't forget to turn your car's ignition to accessory while the movies are playing (if you do forget, the staff has jumper cables).

Maybe what's notable is the lack of rules. So said Alison Daly, of Eastham, for whom Thursday was her first time at the drive-in.

"It's just a totally different experience," she said. "You can keep your cellphone on, and you don't need to be quiet."

Then, there are the snacks.

Liz Dove, viewing the films with Provincetown's Leduc, spoke of fond memories of "soft-serve coffee ice cream."

Dove recalled going to the drive-in as a child, when she said she "just got hooked."

"It's just the old sound system, the speakers, the snack bar," she said.

"It's romantic."


(c)2013 the Cape Cod Times (Hyannis, Mass.)

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