Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Rodeo, and The Skyview, Drive-in Theaters

Bremerton, Washington

Belleville, Illinois

I keep mentioning that the idea of the drive-in theater project is not to catalog all the theaters, but to look at the way these iconic structures interact with the different regional landscapes. There are also distinct regional styles of drive-in theater design, even though every one ends up being unique. Grass parking fields are preferred in the East, gravel in the Mid-west. Where the land is hilly a slope is often used to improve the sightlines to the screen, while where the land is flat the ramping is built up high and light breaks surround the field. The Rodeo is in a rural area well outside the small city of Bremerton. The original screen is set at the bottom of a natural amphitheater cleared from the surrounding dense evergreen forest. This was my first time ever in the Pacific Northwest, but I'd been driving for almost two days through these amazing forests and was thrilled to find the Rodeo and its setting. As a bonus, I got a great interview with the owner.

The Skyview is an unusual theater because the narrow piece of land forced the second screen to be placed in line with, but offset from, the original screen. There are only three or four theaters set up this way. Otherwise it's a classic example of a mid-western drive-in, with a gently ramped gravel field meticulously cleared of weeds. The surroundings are dead flat and the lot is ringed with fencing and trees to avoid light pollution in this fairly built-up area. Another really good interview with the owner here—it turned out that he, I, and the theater all started out in 1949.

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