Sunday, September 02, 2007

The Death of a Drive-In

The Buffalo Drive-In closes down tonight after 58 years in business. It's been quite a while since I've tooled down Harlem Road to catch the double-feature, but this stings nonetheless. It's always tough when a piece of your childhood is erased to build medical office buildings. It's also tough when the NY Times writer Ken Belson uses the closing to slam the state of the city's economy: "Closings are nothing new around Buffalo, where steel mills were shuttered years ago and the streets are pockmarked with boarded-up churches and shops." He makes it sound like a ghost town, without providing any evidence to back up this impression. Such blanket statements show a reliance upon received wisdom about the state of the city...which admittedly has its share of problems. In a recently disclosed study, Buffalo is the second-poorest big city in the nation, with a median income of $27,800 (behind only Detroit). But he fails to mention the $3.6 billion in projects that are in the pipeline, or anything that might offset his premise that Buffalo is a dead town. That kind of defeatist attitude is exactly what Bills quarterback J.P. Losman is admirably fighting, starting a non-profit group called Buffalo Lives!, which intends to beautify the city one block at a time. Losman may never be a pro-bowler, but he's the only QB to ever praise Olmstead's park systems in Buffalo.

Back to the movies. I remember seeing
¡Three Amigos! at the Drive-In when I was 6 or 7 years old, and I thought it was the finest work of art I'd ever seen. I must have been eating pizza, or a hot dog, and laughing my ass off at at the singing burning bush. Maybe I missed a scene to go to the bathroom and regretted the instability of my tiny bladder. I'm not entirely sure. But I loved the movie, re-enacted it with my brother, and saved my parents from entertaining me for one night. So thanks Buffalo Drive-In.


Blogger Matt Singer said...

Man I'm just jealous Buffalo had a Drive-In THIS long. I've never been to one in my entire life.

11:35 PM  
Blogger Pete T. said...

There's one still open between Rochester and Syracuse on Route 20. I went to it for the first time on Tuesday, where the triple bill was Ratatoille, The Bourne Ultimatum, and The Simpsons Movie. First you have to figure out the best place to put your car (as front as possible!), then where to put the speaker (who knows), and then wishing we washed the car beforehand.

We finished up our mid-west road trip (and 15 hours of driving) relaxing with our favorite rat. Good times.

7:15 AM  
Blogger Paul Guttuso said...

Without drive ins the movie "spies like us" would have had to use an abandoned McDonalds sign to blast nuclear weapons from the sky.

I have a personal memory from this historic theatre - Dates with my wife Trinia

5:52 PM  
Blogger Jesse said...

That sucks. If it's any consolation, drive-ins are still alive and well in other parts of upstate NY. My hometown is Saratoga and there are two within half an hour -- a single-screen and a two-screener. I haven't been to either in a few years, but I'm told they still draw pretty large crowds. There are another two or three within an hour's drive. I've long thought, based on their apparent upstate popularity, that maybe the huge decline in drive-ins will stabilize a bit -- though I assume some of those that close are reasonably profitable but bought out anyway.

10:05 AM  
Blogger Pete T. said...

Upstate represent! I've been to two other Drive-ins, one in Alexandria Bay in NY, and one in Connecticut. Are they anywhere else in America?

9:57 AM  
Blogger R. Emmet Sweeney said...


there's actually another drive-in open in the Buffalo area, the Transit Drive-In, so the city's not totally bereft yet. It's just that the Buffalo one held many more memories...

12:01 AM  

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