While there is something that sounds unabashedly old-fashioned about going to the drive-in movies, The Big Mo doesn't feel stuck in the past. In fact, seeing a summer blockbuster movie on such a huge, towering screen feels like the way a movie should be seen - larger than life. And last year, the Monetta Drive-In won a nationwide competition that earned it a brand-new digital projector. While watching a movie at a drive-in is a fantastic experience, the theaters are few and far between nowadays. The Big Mo is one of only 338 left in the entire country and one of three in South Carolina.
A rainbow-colored neon sign, looking like something from a movie itself, pulled us in from the highway. We paid for our tickets from the car (the drive-in accepts only cash at the admissions booth, so come prepared) and then drove down the narrow, sandy paths to our movie. A huge grassy field stretched before us, and a white screen towered several stories high.
Before the movie started, a dozen children climbed and jumped and swung on the playground in the big grassy field in front of the screen. Small groups of teenagers walked around, flirting and making new friends. Some families were camped out on blankets in the backs of their minivans with the tailgate open or spread out in the beds of pickups. My husband pulled out our lawn chairs and set them up on the grass next to the car while the kids and I went to the snack bar, well stocked with burgers and hot dogs as well as popcorn and candy.
When the screen came to life, everyone scurried back to their cars and turned off their headlights. There were our heroes and villains, as giant as they appeared in your dreams when you were little, right there in front of us, amid a shower of stardust. A drive-in movie isn't just a fun, kitschy way to see a movie. It's the most magical way.
The Big Mo shows first-run movies as double headers on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights at dusk from March through November. It's in the small town of Monetta, which is between Columbia and Augusta, Ga.
Insider tip: Bring blankets and lawn chairs, so you can watch the movie outside under the stars.