At the drive-in

Nicole Stempak

Film is thread through an intricate array of bobbins in the second floor equipment room at the drive-in. Twenty-four frames run through the projector per second and are shown on the screen with the help of a 4500 watt light bulb. Kelly Petryszyn | Daily

Credit: DKS Editors

Richard Peck, a Mayfield Heights resident, has been coming to the Midway Twin Drive-in in Ravenna almost every week since 1995.

Drive-ins were the place to go when he was in high school.

“I remember coming to the drive-in when I was 16 on a date with a girl,” he said with a distant look. “I was surprised by how many people I saw from my high school. It was the big thing to do because guys would neck with their girls.”

On his first date with a girl, he said he borrowed his dad’s 1955 two-toned white and blue Ford.

Nowadays, the 71-year-old retired bricklayer said he keeps coming back because he enjoys the atmosphere more than an indoor theater.

“It’s more relaxing,” he said as he was sitting on a black iron bench outside the concessions stand. “Nobody’s pushing your elbows. This is a really nice night for a drive-in. I don’t know why they died out.”

About the Midway

Twin Drive-in

&bull Midway Drive-in is on 2736 state Route 59 in Ravenna, just east of


&bull $16 admission for the car, regardless of people in it.

&bull This weekend is the final drive-in for the season. It re-opens in late March or early April.

&bull There will be several concession stand specials this weekend as well.

Midway Twin Drive-in is the only drive-in in Portage County. It’s one of 31 remaining in the state, according to the United Drive-in Theatre Owners Association.

General Manager Michael Marxen thinks their decline has something to do with modern life.

“There are so many more options, too, for the entertainment dollar,” he said, comparing it to when he started working at Midway about 25 years ago. “We’re competing against the baseball games, DIRECTV, cable.”

If that’s the case, Marxen supposes it’s the nostalgic atmosphere that drives the people back there. Their parents brought them, and now they’re bringing their kids to the drive-in, he said.

John Dean, a Parma resident, said he grew up going to drive-ins. Now, he and his wife try to make a trip to the drive-in at least once or twice a season, and they try to bring along Kiwi, their 3-year-old Terrier-Collie mix.

The night of Dean’s most recent visit was also Tasha Jones’ first time at the drive-in. She said she wanted to see Tyler Perry’s “I Can Do Bad All by Myself,” and this was the only drive-in showing it. It helped that she wanted to see the second movie, “The Final Destination,” as well.

“It’s two good movies for one price,” the University of Akron nursing student said.

In tough economic times, Marxen said there’s a tendency for drive-ins to do better business.

“We are a good value,” he said. “There’s not too many places a family can go for $16.”

The drive-in charges $16 per car, regardless of how many people are in it. For that price, they get to watch two recent releases.

This season, Marxen said attendance was up, thanks to films like “Up,” “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” “G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra” and “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian.”

“We’re also dependent upon what kind of films Hollywood’s putting out,” Marxen said, adding that the drive-in tries to show family-themed flicks to promote a family environment and appeal to a wide range of customers.

Friday and Saturday

movie times

&bull Screen 1:

Couples Retreat

7:30 and 11 p.m.

Rated PG-13


9:35 p.m.

Rated PG-13

&bull Screen 2:


7:30 and 11 p.m.

Rated R

District 9

9:10 p.m.

Rated R

The drive-in, which opened in 1949, has capacity of about 600 cars between the two screens. Despite the competition, he has seen the gravel lot filled to capacity a few times this past summer.

Marxen said the drive-in retains that old-time movie feel in part because the premise hasn’t really changed through the years.

“The main focus is to sit back, relax and enjoy the movie,” he said.

Rachel Stewart, assistant manager at Midway, has worked there for two years, and she recently wrote about her newfound appreciation of drive-ins for her creative non-fiction writing class.

“I just wrote about my experiences here and how it’s really like America’s pastime and how it’s a really great thing to have here,” she said over the clicking, clacking and whirring of the movie projectors. “I wrote about what I had to deal with, about customers and mishaps with the popcorn machine and getting burnt.”

Stewart, a junior English major at Mount Union College, wrote about the drive-in she’s been working at for the past two years in a paper titled “A New Love.” It’s the same drive-in she’s been visiting all her life.

Her earliest memory is going to see “The X-Files” and “Armageddon” with her mom. Stewart reminisces her excitement of seeing something different.

“You can sit outside in your own personal space, and no one can really bug you, and the people behind you aren’t throwing popcorn at you or talking during the movie,” she said, adding that she frequently goes to the drive-in on her nights off, and she hasn’t been to an indoor theater in years.

Leslie Turner, a nursing student at the University of Akron, said that’s the advantage of coming to the drive-in as opposed to seeing the movie in an indoor movie megaplex.

“You can smoke, take your shoes off and wear your pajamas like I am,” she said, gesturing at her pink flowered attire. “You’re in your own little world.”

Contact enterprise reporter Nicole Stempak at [email protected]