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Would You Play Along With My Virtual Drive-In?

By Jay Kerner

Quick history. I’m a Drive-In guy. Grew up there. As poor kids in the 60’s, I can count the times we saw the inside of a regular movie-house on one hand. The “kids get in free” policy at the drive-in, meant we could see all the popular movies we’d heard of. Just six months or so after the “rich people”. We went every week in the summer.

The drive-in business model took a beating in the last quarter of the century, and St. Joe lost theirs like so many other places.
The Queen and I took our kids to KC once a summer or so during their “wonder years”, and their memories are still so vivid, they can tell you every movie, what pajamas they wore, and what they got from the snack bar.

I always dreamed of opening one in my hometown, so current generations could experience the magic like we did. Leased the old Horseshoe Lake property out highway 6, and over a 5-year period, built a two screen drive-in. People loved it! When it wasn’t underwater.

We did wonderful business between floods. We repeated the cycle over and over till time to renew the lease, and just couldn’t do it anymore.

Then, several years after we started putting out The Regular Joe, we pitched the library and the mall on a “Pop-Up” Drive-in scheme. We got two seasons out of that in the mall/library parking lot, but even though the response was wonderful, the cost, the manpower and the unpredictable weather, pulled the plug on the endeavor.

That brings us to today. And everybody tagging me on drive-in posts. I get it. I’m the drive-in guy.

But it’s kind of a mixed emotion thing with me. Still love it… but it’s broken my heart! Actual, literal, blood, sweat and tears. And the money! Sometimes in my dreams, I’m waist deep in the current, struggling toward the ticket booth with Bob Shultz. In the real version, we were morons who easily could have drowned. In my dreams, all I see is a river of cash, flowing downstream.

So, thanks! Thanks for all the drive-in posts you’re sharing. Love all the “Too bad you’re not open, today!” messages. All I can tell you is that if I was open, it would be raining.

But, I have an idea!!! A silly idea, sure, but fun! And what else would you expect from the likes of me?


Here’s what we’re gonna do:

We’re going to pick a day and a time and a movie. And we’re going to watch it in our cars!

On our phones. On our tablets. On our laptops. Folks that want to go all out, can use their home projectors and show it on their garage doors. However. And we’ll watch. Together.

Okay, I can hear the party-poopers out there! Why do this? It’s stupid! Why sit in the car? Why all together? What’s the point?

Well, as somebody that has studied the history of the industry, invested and lost almost every dime of his hard-earned money in it, and learned just about every lesson it has to teach, let me tell you about the magic of the drive-in.

First, it’s the car. Whether it’s a Smart Car, the Family Truckster or a lifted 4×4, your vehicle is your spaceship for the evening and you’re all in it together, for the duration of the journey.

This is no movie in the park! Nothing wrong with that. Love that! But this is something else.

It’s the car. Privacy in public. Inside in the outdoors.

Families always liked drive-ins, not only for the price, but also because a lot of kids can’t behave well enough for an indoor movie. Toss them in the back seat and let them crawl around. They liked bringing in their own snacks instead of paying snack bar prices. As a kid, we had a grocery sack filled with popcorn and bottles of 3V Cola in the cooler. The kids were always in PJ’s because despite all the promises and protestations, not many little ones made it through a double feature that didn’t start till 9:45. It was easier to carry them straight to bed that way in the wee hours.

But daylight is no longer a problem for our virtual drive-in. Digital screens mean we can start whenever we want.

Ha! One of our challenges back then, was the potential cost of converting the drive-in from our old 35mm film projectors to the new digital format. They were talking back then of like a half a million bucks! Well, I guess I found a way around that, didn’t I! Take that, film industry! But just try it! A typical tablet on the dash, is surprisingly similar in size to a drive-in screen about halfway back.

Now, let me interject, I don’t know how we’re doing this, yet. Our digital team at The Regular Joe is looking at the various platforms to see what might be the best fit. But it’ll happen if enough of you want it to.

We don’t have a date or time, and we don’t know what movie we’re going to choose. Maybe a classic. Needs to be something with pretty broad appeal. Maybe we’ll do an online poll and let you vote.

Can you watch on your couch? Sure. Or in bed or in the tub. But the car is better if you want to recreate the magic.

My first thought was to do this all together, somewhere. Pick a spot and invite people to come park 6 feet apart. I don’t see a huge issue with this health wise, but decided against it. Some knucklehead pulls out a Frisbee or a beach ball and the next thing you know, we’re a pandemic hot zone. Better to do this in our driveways.

But we can still be together. We can share photos. We can text. We can make use of the technology.

We can thumb our collective noses at this damn virus (in a safe, responsible way) and do something normal. Something fun. Something different!

Admit it! You’re bored! I’ve seen the posts. “What’s everybody watching?” We’re all on our couches, searching for something to break up the monotony of home confinement.

Well here it is!

Would you do it? Would you invite your peeps to do it, too? I wonder how many would.

I wonder if it could become a thing. If we did it and people liked it, we’d probably do it again. Maybe at a regular time so people could plan for it. Or maybe different movies at different times. Holy crap! You could program it like a network. At 6pm central time, Kong of Skull Island. At 8, It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World. At 10, the Jaws trilogy. Dress everybody up for Star Wars night. Or Rocky Horror. Maybe Tuesday is Western night. Wed for Sci-Fi. Something for everybody. It’s not against the law. No money is changing hands. We’re not even violating laws against public viewing of copyrighted material by streaming individually.

But this doesn’t have to just be our deal. Any group could do it. I could see church communities all watching The Robe or something appropriate for Easter.

Sports fans reliving championships together. (Sort of.)
Music lovers enjoying concerts together. (Sort of.)

Anything, really, that people would normally enjoy together.

Seems like something folks would like, but what the hell do I know? I’m just making stuff up. It’s what I do. Sometimes you dig it, sometimes you don’t. And I’m lousy at predicting.

So whadayathink? Would people do it? Would you? What would you want to see?

And what kind of numbers do you think? Just a handful of our friends and family, or… bwahaha…something …bigger?

Let us know, here at The Regular Joe. If you like it, we’ll figure out the details.

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