A Night at the 49er’s Drive-In Theatre

It has been a long time since we went to the movies. In retrospect, I cannot remember if the last film we saw in a movie theater was Avengers: End Game, Captain Marvel, or Star Wars IX: The Rise of Skywalker, all of which were released in 2019. While we have both been captivated by the powers of streaming services, there’s nothing quite like the atmosphere of watching a movie on the big screen.

Events like Valparaiso’s Summer Outdoor Movies create a whole new experience of nostalgic traditions for us. We absolutely loved eating pizza in the park while watching the original Ghostbusters in Central Park Plaza. We had heard about a drive-in theatre months ago and added it to our must-do list, but when it popped up again as an advertisement for Disney’s Jungle Cruise and Marvel’s Black Widow at the 49er’s Drive-In, we decided to finally give it a try.

Summer Outdoor Movies every Tuesday night for the month of June

The 49er’s Drive-In Movie Theatre is a huge hit in Valparaiso. For just $10 (ages 12+), you can drive-in for the showing of two new release films. The box office opens at 7:00 pm and and parking is first come, first serve. We had a feeling that the show could sell out on a Saturday night so we picked up our movie concessions at the grocery store ahead of time and arrived at the drive-in about an hour before the box office opened where there was already a decent line of cars ahead of us. We turned off the engine and read our library books with the windows rolled down in a comfortable 70 degrees as vehicles continued to pull over to join the line behind us.

The cars inched forward when the box office opened and we rolled by the cash-only drive-thru pay booth for our tickets. There were a lot of SUV’s and trucks in line so we chose a parking spot in the first row with our Corolla where we wouldn’t have a blocked view. We propped up our camping chairs and cued up our radio to the 49er’s FM station, 88.9. While there are speakers near the back of the lot, the website recommends tuning in to their station for the best sound quality. We didn’t want to run our car battery the entire evening so we picked up a cheap battery-operated radio prior to the show. This ended up being a great asset for us during the movies when the speakers seemed a little muffled in the distance. We had a trusty portable speaker right on our laps from a good old AM/FM radio, complete with its own antennae. Who says they don’t make these anymore???

Our AM/FM radio speaker

It was a great evening to relax with the sun going down as the kids played catch, frisbee, and soccer in the field leading up to the show. I also got a kick out of watching a 4 -year-old running continuous laps around the perimeter until I lost count. That’s a future long-distance runner! We walked the grounds to stretch our legs and use the restroom in the concessions building before the movies started. As the evening became night, the audience began honking their horns to signal the children to return to their families and the show began!

The first film, Jungle Cruise, was a light-hearted, slap-stick humor action flick similar to an Indiana Jones adventure. The heroine is searching for a sacred tree in the Amazon to bring back to life with an ancient relic to help the medical and scientific community but needs the help of a local skipper to navigate the river. There are many obstacles and villains who want the tree’s powers for their own glory but it all works out in the end with a happy ending. This was a pretty entertaining movie that got us laughing and in the feel-good movie mood as we snacked on popcorn and chocolates.

There was a 15-20 minute intermission after the first movie for people to stop by the concessions or leave the theater. Some of the vehicles with families headed out after Jungle Cruise before the next movie started at 10:50 pm. It was getting a little chilly and buggy outside so we packed up our chairs and moved into the car for second movie. Black Widow is a prequel of sorts in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s timeline after Captain America: Civil War and before Avengers: End Game. This was a great action movie giving more depth to Natasha Romanoff’s character with background on her family, training, and purpose. It was a fun twist to see an action hero reunite with her long-lost sister and tag team to take down an evil organization. You go, girls!

We left an action-packed evening already talking about the next time we could come out to see another double feature. The 49er’s drive-in theatre was a unique place to reevaluate our interpretation of “going to the movies.” There’s just nothing quite like watching a new movie on the big screen with a bag of popcorn to share.

Yes, I said share. ahem! (clears throat loudly in-between bites)


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