Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

August 20, 2013
First drive-in theater night was a magical experience

We’d had “go to a drive-in theater” on our family summer bucket list for a couple of years now.

Luckily, we can still do this locally. Drive-in theaters like Motor Vu in Erda are an endangered species, after all. According to a recent Associated Press report, film companies recently switched to digital format, charging upwards of $70,000 for a single screen projector. It’s killing mom-and-pop drive-ins’ ability to make any profit.

Motor Vu, the first drive-in in Utah to make this switch this past spring, recoups some of its costs through concessions sales. That is, it relies on you and me not sneaking in that bag of popped popcorn and Snickers bar in our oversized purse, and buying their snacks instead. I think that’s pretty much an expectation when you go to a movie theater or concert, but in the drive-in’s case, it’s more than just etiquette. It’s their lifeblood.

Anyway, back to my family’s bucket list. In the past, the drive-in combo was usually a children’s movie and some slasher-or-blow-’em-up type of film, so we’d come up with some excuse not to go. Then one July night this summer, when the double offerings of “Epic” and “The Croods” appeared on Motor Vu Drive-In Theater’s marquee, we decided it was time to check it off our list.

My husband had been to drive-in theaters before, but my teenage kids and I had never been. Oh, sure, I’d been to many outdoor movies — “Princess Bride” at Utah State University’s amphitheater and “Tangled” at the Deseret Peak Complex during the County Fair. And I was also somewhat familiar with drive-ins through the infamous scene from “Grease” where Sandy dumps Danny.

But this was different. Sitting at an angle on a camp chair and cocooned in a quilt against the cooling evening breeze on my husband’s truck’s bed felt like a guilty pleasure. I mean, I always tell the kids to not ride in truck beds. Yet there we were, three feet off the ground, people-watching while waiting for the movies to start.

There’s something very American about kicking back on the bed of your pick-up truck while munching on some popcorn. In the Philippines, where I grew up, someone would probably call the cops on you for vagrancy if you tried this in a parking lot in the dead of the night.

An old-fashioned ad with a dancing hotdog and fries (Get your concessions!) came on, and then the first movie began. For two hours, “Epic” entertained us. When it ended, I expected myself to nod off thanks to the late hour, dark night and pleasant breeze, but “Croods” had me gasping for breath between laughs, it was so funny.

Maybe it was, in large part, the choice of movies. Maybe it was listening to my kids laugh during their first drive-in experience. And maybe it was being outside snuggled in a blanket with my family on the perfect summer night. To me, my first drive-in theater visit was simply magical.

Did you know that Aug. 30 through Sept. 1 is the Motor Vu’s family film festival? Then on Sept. 5-7, Asylum 49 zombies will roam the drive-in’s parking lot for Zombie Weekend. Kudos to the drive-in for creativity!


Jewel Punzalan Allen is a memoir writing coach and award-winning journalist who lives in Grantsville. Visit her website at:

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