Monday, July 21, 2008

FUN: Fork Union Drive-In

For a great way to spend a summer weekend night, check out the Fork Union Drive-In movie theater.

I had seen mention of the Fork Union Drive-In on movie listing for the last few years, but never much about the drive-in. There isn't a website for the theater, and no one I knew had been there, but I've always been intrigued by this slice of Americana that has almost disappeared, so I finally tried it out.

Drive-ins have mostly gone the way of the dodo because of rising real estate costs. (With any population nearby, the land is worth more as a strip mall than a theatre used 35-40 times per year.) There's still a few hidden in corners of Virginia, and finally I had a weekend where intent, schedule, and weather all synced up to make for a great night at the drive-in.

I finally went this past Saturday to the Fork Union Drive-In, located about 25 miles from Cville in Fluvanna. (Hull's Drive-In, the other drive-in located an easy drive from Cville, is located in Lexington.) The theater is open every weekend for a double-feature starting @ dusk. On Saturday, we saw The Incredible Hulk and Wanted. The Hulk was OK, and Wanted officially sucked (though I'm in the minority here- 15,000 Yahoo users rated the movie a collective B+.) The important thing here is that the Drive-In has two first run films for only $8.50 (total) per person.

A full concession stand offers all of the movie favorites (including very yummy fresh popcorn with real butter), plus hot dogs, BBQ, and ice cream. Prices are very reasonable (I think I paid $2.50 for a large soda - it'd be $5 at an indoor theater), plus, in spite of rules against it, you can bring drinks in via coolers - if the other moviegoers are any indication.

The crowd was a mix of families in minivans and folks in pick-up trucks on a date. (Pick-ups make for great seating arrangements if you park away from the screen.) There's plenty of grass for kids to play on pre-film. With 2 films running until midnight, some families left after the first movie. The audio and visual for the movies was solid - audio is available from both traditional wired speaker boxes and via radio broadcast - just tune your car radio. ;The gate opens @ 7:30, with movies starting @ 8:45. I'd say the drive-in was 80% full on a perfect night weather-wise.

The crowd must have been extreme locals (including Lake Monticello), as there's no marketing for the drive-in, as far as I can tell. I really think that the drive-in could be packed every weekend with more awareness in Albemarle County (or even the West End of Richmond) - what better way to entertain a minivan full of kids on a Friday or Saturday night? Of course, with the theater 80% full, the proprietors are probably just as happy keeping things local.

The drive-in's mailing address is "Rural Route 6," which means that you can't map it's exact location in Google in order to get driving directions. To get there from Cville, take Rt. 15 south 15 miles to a right on Rt. 6. Drive through Fork Union, past FUMA, and take a right just past a BP gas station. The theater is about 100 yards ahead. Careful: there don't seem to be any signs for the theater, keeping with the general trend of not marketing the Drive-In.

I highly recommend the Fork Union Drive-In experience, and will head back a few more times this summer.


Lauren in Glen Allen, VA said...

We live in the West End of Richmond and heard about the Fork Union drive-in from a friend who heard about it from a friend. We went for the first time a few weeks ago to see Wall*E and Kit Kittredge. It's nice to see a blog about the place because just a little firsthand information can be all it takes for someone to go try it out! (It worked for me and my family!)

I did get yelled at for trying to take a photo of the entire place from the top of the hill, but once the lady finished her inappropriate rampage, I snapped a photo just to spite her. I wasn't trying to hurt anyone, I just wanted a fresh photo for our family photo album so we could remember our time there!

It was a truly memorable experience...took me back to my childhood...and it was great to share that with my children and husband. It's definitely worth a trip out...From Glen Allen it only took us about 45 minutes to get there. Just watch those roads after dark! There are deer AND speed traps!

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