Each Friday and Saturday night, two films play back to back in a lot 5 miles south of Maquoketa off Highway 61. In a generation that constantly refers to the aesthetic of the 1950’s, there’s nothing more beautifully cliché than a drive-in theater. The 61 Drive-In is authentic in its vintage appeal, opening in 1950, being taken over by its current owner, Dennis Voy, in 1972. According to Voy, the year he started running the 61 was a big year for drive-ins all around.
“Drive in theaters became very popular because cars were so in fashion,” said Voy. “Business was really at its peak. As time went on, though, a lot of them shut down because they were at the edge of town. People didn’t much see the appeal of driving out, but we’ve survived. We’re still here.”
With the ever-expanding list of ways to watch movies nowadays with Netflix, Amazon Prime, and other forms of streaming as well as the in-town theaters such as Mindframe and AMC, it’s easy to see why drive-ins fell out of popularity. Other methods of watching films have an aspect of convenience. However, there’s one thing a drive-in has that new modern forms of movie going doesn’t: nostalgic charm.
Popcorn, soda, the smell of grass and fresh air as the windows of the car are rolled down, and the crackle of the radio turning on as the opening lines to a movie are pumped through the speakers. The 61 isn’t just a relic of the Golden Age, it’s a genuine, beautiful experience to share with friends, family, and romantic partners.
“It’s a bargain, you know,” stated Voy. “Two movies for $8, concessions, and a unique environment that’s hard to find somewhere else. 61 is one of the only places in the area you can get a real taste of the 50’s.”
By: Mimi Ottavi