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Drive-in Cinemas in Victoria

Home > Melbourne > Cinema | Fun for Children | Fun Things To Do
by Jeni Wilson (subscribe)
Teacher educator and author of many teacher reference books. Amused by random ideas and loves random acts of kindness. Enjoys writing humour...seriously!Please see my Instagram: wilsonjeni
Published April 20th 2014
Back up the ute and get out a mattress
Some of my happy childhood memories include going to the 'drive-ins'. It was a bit like being in an American Happy Days episode. I suppose it was a cheap outing as it still is now. It only cost $17 for three of us to see a kids movie.

In the old days the sound came from a box connected by a cord to a pole. It sometimes took a few goes at getting the car in the right position. I know that a lot of windows were ripped out when people drove off if they had forgotten to take the speaker box out of their windows. Am I wicked if that makes me smile? It never happened to us but we were embarrassed once by locking our keys in the car. Oh, those were the days.

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My daughter said this reminded her of Sandy and Danny in Grease

I have done some homework and discovered that the drive-ins have been in Australia since 1954. The first movies shown were Alfred Hitchcock's Marnie and Mc Hale's Navy. That's well before I was a child but not since my parents were children and as young parents (not for their days) I suppose they thought it was a bit of a thrill.

We always went to the Coburg Drive-in which opened in 1965. In its heyday it was big enough to house 850 cars! I am surprised that it still exists because many other drive-ins have been sold off for new housing estates. That land would be worth a pretty fortune.

There are still a few drive-ins left like the one at Ballarat, Dromana and the largest and oldest in Dandenong.

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Burgers, chips and choc tops… same menu for decades

Take a stroll back down memory lane and introduce the kids to fun memories of seeing the movies at a drive-in theatre; there's nothing like it. I remember it was always a bit of a squash, there would be a fairly lengthy discussion about who got to sit in the front seat last time. My legs would inevitably get pins and needles and the windows would fog up (if it didn't rain!).

When I became a teenager and young adult I don't remember going to the 'pictures' much but the drive-ins were as popular as bowling. You could take a carload of friends for a steal, so I don't know why they ever tried to hide people in the boot or under blankets. Even now it's just $25 adult movies (Mon, Tues, Wed) or $30 (Thurs-Sun) for a carload. Movie marathons (all night) are only $18 per head). I think that's cheaper than one movie at the cinemas!

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Just the same as always

In the olden days going to the drive-ins was a bit like being in an American sitcom. The retro style café and the menu still triggers the tune of the TV series in my head… Thursday, Friday, Happy Days. They haven't updated the menu and the prices are relatively reasonable. You can still buy chips ($3), burgers ($6.50), popcorn and ice-cream. There are lots of deals like 2 hot dogs and 2 drinks for $17 or my personal favourite: large popcorn, choc top and a drink for $15. Unfortunately, there's no cinema cleaner to whip around and make the car spick and span before the next movie.

You have to remember that drive-ins were before the onslaught of take-away outlets so picking the snacks alone was a big treat and cause a great deal of consternation. I think that my parents were saints. Nowadays you can order via sms and have food delivered to the car. It's not quite Gold Class but a good excuse to pig out. It seems that it doesn't matter if you have just eaten you can somehow develop a hearty appetite and manage to eat all the way through the drive-in movies.

If you love movies, Easter is the time to enjoy the drive-ins with the kids. Now that daylight savings is over the movies start early (about 6.30) and it's not too cold to set up the mattress or camping chairs.

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Popular while waiting for the movies to start

One word of warning if you haven't been before, I have found that kids tend to talk a lot during the drive-in movies. They also want to go to the playground no matter how cold, dark or crowded it is. Kids also seem to frequent the toilets… because they can… so don't choose something that needs serious attention!
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Why? For Good Old-Fashioned Movie Fun
When: Every day of the week
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