Photographer captures haunting images of departed drive-ins

posted by CSWalczak on January 21, 2010 at 7:42 am

NEW YORK, NY — Photographer Carl Weese took his first B&W picture of an abandoned drive-in theater over a decade ago in Connecticut. Since then, he has been taking pictures of drive-ins in over 25 states, most of them now closed and decaying. He sees the drive-in theater as a “stealthily strong feature of American history.” A recent article in the New York Times spotlights his work and includes a slideshow of his pictures.

From the middle of the field, Mr. Weese could see the screen of an abandoned drive-in movie theater at the foot of a nearby hillside. It was half-covered in a thicket of overgrown trees. The image of the derelict screen blending into the surrounding landscape intrigued him.

The following morning he got up early. At dawn he photographed the drive-in, just as the day’s first shafts of light fell upon the white screen and illuminated it.

It was Mr. Weese’s first photograph of a drive-in theater. Over the years, he has produced hundreds more. “Drive-ins are this stealthily strong feature of American history,” said Mr. Weese, who takes a sociological approach to much of his photography.

Comments (6)

Patsy on January 22, 2010 at 7:07 am

This is a wonderful article with site to view many b/w drive-in photos by Carl Weese. I then went and viewed the many photos of white churches. Amazing collection of churches and drive-in theatres! The one with the screen seen among the trees was most striking though sad. Thank you Mr. Weese for your talented photograhic eye.

Patsy on January 22, 2010 at 8:32 am

CWalczak: How did you find the story about Drive-In photographer, Carl Weese? I viewed his many b/w photos and then sent him an email.

CSWalczak on January 22, 2010 at 10:21 am

I was reading another story in the New York Times and there was a sidebar reference to this story; after I read it, I thought it might be of interest to other regular CT readers such as yourself.

Patsy on January 22, 2010 at 11:46 am

CWalczak: You are most correct and thank you.

Patsy on January 22, 2010 at 11:50 am

Below is a reply to me from Carl Weese, photographer of the New York Times article:

It’s interesting that a lot of DI theaters tried the adult entertainment route in desperation but it essentially never worked. Some recent online research I did has turned up two DIs in Texas that advertise adult entertainment, but they certainly are the exception. From the beginning, my research has shown, successful DIs followed a “family entertainment” model. Not just movies suitable for kids, but playgrounds and other kid-oriented activities, and pricing structures that made a night at the DI about the most economical evening out available to a young family with kids. It’s still true I’ve found at theaters that continue to succeed. A nice touch I’ve encountered at quite a few theaters: in high summer when even the first show starts really late, they show a kid’s feature first and then something R-rated as the second feature, since the little kids have long ago gone to sleep in the cars…I’m not familiar with Cinema Treasures but will look into it. Thanks for getting in touch.—-Carl

TLSLOEWS on February 17, 2010 at 1:19 pm

Maybe they should call it Ghost Town Drive-ins.

You must login before making a comment.

New Comment