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Drive-in movies

By Merrill Ogden - | Sep 20, 2023

It’s not too often that I go to the same movie twice in the movie theater in this day and age. I did that more often years ago before the advent of movies being released on VHS tapes and on DVD, and, of course, now on streaming services.

I have a friend who I believe saw the movie “Jaws” about a dozen times in the theater. Needless to say, he was a little obsessed with the show. He did a great impression of the character played by Robert Shaw who captained the boat that went out after the killer shark.

Back in my school days, I began a bit of a fascination with Shakespeare. I also developed a bit of a fascination with Olivia Hussey who played Juliet in Franco Zeffirelli’s movie “Romeo and Juliet.” I saw that movie several times.

So, why did I go see the latest Indiana Jones movie a second time last Friday night? Even though we liked the movie the first time, the real reason for going wasn’t that. The reason for going a second time was because it was at the Basin Drive In movie theater.

The outdoor movie experience was the reason. We wanted to make sure that we got there before the place closes for the season. Besides the movie, we needed burgers and popcorn.

It’s always fun to get supper and enjoy a star-lit night at the movies. I don’t know why the burgers taste so good there. But they do. It may be in the same category as “food always tastes better up on the mountain” kind of thing. Some things you don’t analyze too much, you just enjoy.

The Basin is also a great place to run into friends too – but not as good as Wal-Mart. At the snack shack, I ran into a guy from Spring City who I haven’t seen in a few years.

He and his wife have been out of the country and are heading out again before long – something about Africa and humanitarian missions. He thinks all semi-healthy old people (like me) should be doing that sort of thing. I told him something like, “Hey, somebody has to stay in Sanpete and keep the lights on for humanity here.”

As far as I can tell from my research. The Basin Drive-In is one of the last four operating outdoor movie theaters in Utah. It was five, until last year when the Riverdale Drive-In near Ogden closed. I gather that the property was rezoned for residential use.

I believe the other remaining three outdoor theaters in Utah are the Redwood in West Valley City, the Echo Drive-In in Roosevelt, and the Erda Drive-In near Tooele.

I was thinking back on my drive-in experiences. In Richfield, where I grew up, the old Rich Drive-In used to be west of town, west of the canal near the hills.

In 1957, the Walt Disney movie “Johnny Tremain” came out and I was 5 years old. I have memories of seeing that movie at the drive-in.

There was a haystack on a farm near the drive-in there. When I was a little older, once in a while, that became the place for some of us to “park” for catching a movie. It was close enough to get the sound pretty well off the speaker poles closest to the fence.

As a college freshman at USU, I saw “Woodstock” at the drive-in theater in Logan the very first night I arrived in town. My dad used to say, “Merrill flips a coin to decide what to do in the evenings. Heads – go to the show. Tails – go to the dance. If it stands on its side – stay home and study.”

In my college days in Utah County, I used to go to the Geneva, the Art City, and the Pioneer drive-ins. They’re all gone now. At that time, it was popular with us to put pillows and blankets on the windshield and hood of the car and lounge there while watching the movie.

One of my memorable birthday parties, some years ago, was at the Basin Drive-In. A group of us set up chairs and boom boxes and watched Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster in “Maverick.” It was a great time.

I have wondered if drive-in movies will make a comeback in America. It doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. The number has been steadily declining.

As I write this, I’m thinking I should go on a quest to visit the last remaining drive-in theaters in the state. Maybe I should consider adding Idaho into that project. (It looks like they might have seven drive-ins left.)

It would be much easier than climbing the highest mountain in each of the 29 counties of the state, like some of my family members have done.

It would also be easier, though less high minded and spiritual, than visiting all the LDS temples in the state like some people do. I’ll give you a report, if I start acting on this sudden, out of the blue, drive-in movie goal. Of course, this isn’t the time of year to start since drive-ins will soon be closed for the season.

In the meantime, I recommend that you hustle to The Basin Drive-In for dinner and a movie. At this time of year, they’re only open Friday, Saturday and Monday. Make memories and enjoy!

— Merrill


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