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Georgia's other two drive-ins are in Jessup, near Savannah, and the Highway 17 Theater in Dewy Rose near the South Carolina border, a new drive-in that recently moved from its previous home between Commerce and Athens. Sanders predicts that the number of remaining drive-ins -- about 450 -- is unlikely to change much in the coming years, largely because the worst is already behind them.
"There's something so magical about seeing a movie under the stars that we'll always want to see films projected outdoors," Sanders says. She and her husband currently are touring the nation's drive-ins with their well-received independent documentary film, Drive-In Movie Memories.
The Dallas residents just returned from upstate New York and rural Pennsylvania, where they visited Becky's Drive-in in Walnutport, a pristine single-screen theater that has remained essentially unchanged since it opened in 1946. Many aficionados consider it the country's finest, although the Sanders admit to being partial to the art-deco Brazos Drive-in, about 40 miles southwest of Fort Worth.
In the South, the drive-in seemed to be more welcoming to black audiences than indoor theaters, says Sanders, whose research has turned up only one segregated drive-in, in North Carolina, with a fence dividing two sides of a parking lot. In Texas, a white businessman did well with a theater he promoted as "Dallas' finest entertainment for colored people."
"In the old days, theater owners would decorate their screens with hand-painted murals and neon to attract people driving by on the road," Sanders says. "But, apart from the handful that are left, those days are gone forever."
So are the days when drive-in fanatic Croker could persuade his mother to drop him off with friends at the Smyrna Drive-in near Dobbins Air Force Base. It was there, on one memorable evening, that he soaked in a quadruple feature that would serve as a cinematic Lollapalooza to any 12-year-old boy: Yog: Monster from Space, Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster, Destroy All Monsters and The Thing with Two Heads, with a honky's noggin grafted onto the monstrous Rosey Grier.
"That's what started me on the road to ruin," recalls Croker, who has devoted much of his disposable income and a corresponding share of brain cells to collecting posters, memorabilia and actual film prints of such schlock-horror movies.
Although he hasn't made the rounds of Georgia's other drive-ins, he's planning on a trip to Los Angeles along the famed Route 66, which still boasts a number of vintage drive-ins, including one that has a hotel where occupants can watch the movie through the windows.
And if it's showing the double-feature The She-Creature and The Valley of Gwangi, chances are he'll feel like he's 12 all over again.
I agree with Andrew.
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