Rustic Lens
Milky Way movie theater

Sunset Auto Vue – Grangeville, Idaho

I remember the excitement of piling into the car as a kid to go to the drive-in theater.  It wasn’t like going to the multiplex and it wasn’t about just going to see a movie.  It was about thewhole experience.   There were two drive-ins in Visalia California that we would go to when I was a kid.  One was out on Mooney Blvd and the other was somewhere over by Lover’s Lane.  I remember our whole family would get in for $5 a carload. I would always beg to go play at the playground during the movie.  Things moved a lot slower back then for me.  We only had 5 tv channels and that included pbs and the tv evangelist channel.  When we watched tv, when the rabbit ears got good reception (this sometimes meant standing there holding them and using yourself as an antenna) we watched whatever was on.  Without Youtube or Amazon or the internet for that matter, the prospect of going to see a movie was a big deal to me.  The huge screen, the playground, the cool evening air and the snacks were all a part of this great american experience.  We love our cars so much that we like to take them to the movies too.

movie concession stand
Venture into the concession stand for some great popcorn and candy.

I also remember the metal speakers that we would hang on our windows to get the crackly sound from the movie.  If you parked next to one that didn’t work right, you had to move the car to a better spot.  These speakers are really symbolic of drive-ins to me.  I even bought a couple on ebay to decorate the house with.  Click here to get some for yourself.  The Sunset Auto View just outside of Grangeville Idaho still has some up on the wall inside of the concession stand, but they broadcast the sound over your car fm radio now.

drive in movie speakers
There’s nothing like the sound from these speakers.

I am so glad that we still have a drive-in movie theater in our town.  I love that our kids can have those experiences and memories that I cherish from my childhood.  These theaters have changed some now, but they still have that awesome Americana feel to them.

Car at the Drive-in

The movie studios are stopping the production of the big film reels and going totally over to digital.  This has been the death for many drive-ins because of the enormous cost of converting over to the digital projectors.  Fortunate for our community, the Sunset Auto Vue was able to upgrade to digital so that hopefully it will be here for many more years.

movie projector
The projector

That last shot was taken handheld in the super low light at iso 12,800.  This shot is a testament to what Topaz DeNoise can do for a noisy image.  I had just popped into the snack bar to take a couple pics and Gerald (Thanks Gerald!) offered to let me see the projection room.  I didn’t have my tripod with me so I cranked up the iso and the image was fairly noisy.

movie concession stand
Gerald waits to cheerfully serve up some great snacks.

I did some research in preparation for this blog and a google search turned up a few new theaters opening up across the U.S., including one that Gerald mentioned in Montana that has a roller coaster going under the screen.  That one, the Amusement Park Drive-in, is definitely on my bucket list.  I learned in college that as people get older they start to long for the types of experiences that they had when they were young.  This is true in my case I know and I hope to see more drive-in theaters, hamburger drive-ins, roller skating rinks and maybe even some of those Mammoth Orange stands opening up in coming years.  Sadly, many drive-ins have closed in the decades since their peak in the 1950’s.  At that time there were over 4000 drive-ins open in the U.S.. That number has dropped to around 321 now.  You can find more information about drive-in statistics for each state and find one near you at  If you want to keep these awesome symbols of Americana going, then find one near you and pull on up to the entrance booth.

entrance booth drive in

You can follow The Sunset Auto Vue on facebook or at their Website to see which movies are playing.

Here is an interesting short video I found about drive-in theaters.


When was the last time you saw a movie at a drive-in? Please comment below!

Evan Jones

I am a landscape and travel photographer who is drawn to old and rusty stuff as well as beautiful landscapes. I like to explore the backroads of the Northwest United States and anywhere else I can get to. My blog is at

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