But no matter what the reason, there was something truly cool about watching a film on a giant outdoor screen. But several changes conspired to bring about the death of the drive-in. On the economic side, land prices became too high to continue to use valuable real estate for what was essentially a warm-weather only business. At the same time, the advent of color television, followed by the introduction of VCRs and video rentals contributed to the downfall. By the late 1980s, only a handful of what were once more than 4,000 drive-ins nationwide remained in operation.
But as the 21st century dawned, a new type of outdoor theater blossomed. While the drive-ins were mostly situated in suburban or rural areas, the new outdoor films offered an urban experience. Utilizing names like "Screen on the Green," neighborhoods in cities around America began showing once-a-week films in the summer. Technology allowed for giant, collapsible screens and state of the art sound speakers that could be installed and taken down quickly. And although the drive-ins had always been cheap entertainment, the city screens were an even better value - they were free.
|Here's a look at the Crystal Screen setting|
For the past 6 years, our neighborhood of Crystal City has been offering such films. The screen is set up in a large plaza between 2 high-rise office buildings every Monday night for 13 weeks. Mobile food trucks replace the old concession stands for hungry movie goers. Some sites use porta-potties, but in upscale Crystal City an adjacent Marriott provided that bathroom service.
So last night Judy and I grabbed a blanket and walked less than a block to join hundreds of our neighbors at this week's Crystal Screen presentation. Like many of the community screenings, Crystal Screen shows a series of movies with a theme, which this year is RomCom (or chick flicks as they are commonly called). Tonight's choice was the Julia Roberts/Richard Gere classic of that genre Pretty Woman. When we moved to Crystal City last year, we vowed to attend at least one showing a season. Last year's theme had been By The Numbers (each of the titles offered had a number in its title) and our choice was 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Like many of the other screenings, Crystal Screen is sponsored by a business or government organization, in this case the Crystal City Business Improvement District (BID) to promote community growth. At the end of each season, residents are allowed to vote on next year's movies either at the Bell Street movie site or on-line. The 2013 season will feature Blockbusters. To see what choices are being considered, you can click here for the voting list.
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