Unpleasant drive-in theater concessions: a look back

Today's foray into culinary anthropology takes us to the drive-in theater, a once thriving venue in which people watched films from their cars while lined up in a parking lot. As odd as that concept sounds, it pales in comparison to the things those early entertainment pioneers ate.

Hot Meat

The eating of meat was done unapologetically, with high fat content an apparent selling point.

Indeed, the presentation of hot meat selections approached the pornographic.

Tobacco Treats

Still legal and widely available, cigarettes were considered a popular dessert.

Phallic Snacking

Fellatio was as popular then as it is now, but must have been discouraged at the drive-in, because a large variety of substitutes were offered.

The Eating of the Willing

Perhaps the most unusual aspect of concession cuisine was a perverse guilt that resulted in the snacks and drinks being portrayed as being eager to be consumed.

This led to a kind of pathos not seen since the never-seen Jerry Lewis harlequin-in-a-concentration-camp dramedy, The Day the Clown Cried.


  1. “Still legal and widely available, cigarettes were considered a popular dessert.”

    They still are, on all counts.

    It’s the advertising that’s been curtailed.

  2. Thing of the past???? Have you ever been to the midwest? We still have a thriving drive-in movie theatre right here in the middle of all the corn fields! Long live the Fairview Drive In!

    1. We still have the Starlight Drive-In in Atlanta. I haven’t been there in a few years, but I believe it’s still going strong.

  3. Sure the burgers are fatty, but what about the use of canned meat products? The link features old timey-music, a stereotypical animated native American (Pocahontas), shooting a cartoon pig, a nasty pot of bubbling canned meat and a creepy whooping man. Mmmn, snack time!

  4. Unpleasant? Fatty meats, ice cream, deep fried dough, and cigarettes brought to you while you sit in the front seat of your car and watch a movie on a three story high screen is unpleasant?

    Ahhhh, now that I read the introduction to each video I get it.

  5. From http://suicidefood.blogspot.com

    What is Suicide Food? Suicide Food is any depiction of animals that act as though they wish to be consumed. Suicide Food actively participates in or celebrates its own demise. Suicide Food identifies with the oppressor. Suicide Food is a bellwether of our decadent society.

    1. Wait, you mean that animals DON’T want to be eaten? How could I have been fooled by cartoons and ads for so many years?! I promise to be more suspect of any statements made by anthropomorphic food!

  6. This post seems to have come from some future where no one enjoys themselves anymore.

    I say.. “let’s all go to the lobbbbby…” ♪ ♫ ♬

    1. Thank you! And to all of you who don’t necessarily see these foods and their greater culture as the demise of all humanity. I’m not saying it needs to be a nightly meal, but cripes! Some people need to lighten up. We’re turning into a dour society of agelasts who’ve locked their inner child away from transfats and predators. Nancy Grace would be proud, but then she don’t seem like much fun at a party…

  7. I remeber when the Northfield Drive In in Northfield, MA (actually Hinsdale, NH. But that isn’t important) sold the dreck they portrayed in the intermission advertisements like it was last year. Oh, it was last year. They used to sell cigarettes (tax free! NH woooooo!) but someone put a stop to that.

  8. The eating of meat was done unapologetically, with high fat content an apparent selling point.

    I’m not sure what you’re getting at… I eat meat on a daily basis, and rarely apologize for it. Fat is desirable, it makes the meat more tender and flavorful. Top quality meat will be marbled with fat, it’s one of the most desirable selling points of high quality meats. Ever heard of Kobe beef? Its main selling point is its high fat content. It’s highly sought after the world round, and prices can reach over $200 for a steak. It’s considered to be some of the finest meat on earth.

    I get the impression you’re trying to express disgust, and implying those who eat meat should be apologetic and ashamed. I’m frankly offended. I don’t go around criticising vegetarians, telling them they should be ashamed of their vile, unnatural eating habits.
    I’d also like to point out that fat is a vitally important part of any diet. I’ll also point out an avocado has more than double the fat of a steak.

  9. I don’t see anything unpleasant here. Those burgers look delicious to me. In fact, all the food portrayed here was actually much healthier for you. This was before the advent of concentrated feedlots, HFCS, soy lecithin, transfats, and GMO corn.

  10. You know, sometimes, Boing Boing really irritates me. (“Unapologetically”, really…)

    And then, I remember that that’s kind of why I like it. I don’t have to agree with everything I read.

  11. “If God didn’t want us to eat animals, why did he make them out of meat?” – Homer Simpson

  12. It’s not an odd concept. It’s a lot of fun. There’s a drive in that I visit regularly and prefer over normal cinemas.

    I get two movies for the price of one. I don’t have to put up with screaming children in packed, claustrophobic theaters (And I think most theater sound systems are uncomfortably loud anyway). And I find it much more comfortable to sit outside my car in my own beach chair than in a filthy theater.

  13. What’s unpleasant about a Chilly Dilly? The only reason I didn’t have one the last time I went to the fair was because they were all sold out. It’s downright healthy, and plenty refreshing on a hot day on the fairway. Y’all just don’t know how to party.

    1. Dated? How about simple, efficient, and easy to navigate and use? God I miss these kinds of websites. Everyone seems to be into spending huge amounts of time and money redesigning their websites every six months to keep up with the latest trendy webkitwidgetpluginthingy.

      I took a peek at their HTML, there is a commented out midi file at the top, and no css whatsoever! I want to hug their webmaster for their forward-thinking vision. This thing hasn’t probably had to be rebuilt in ten years!

  14. I swear that the second clip (of the southern-style barbecue) is voiced by Bob Barker. If so, it would be ironic, given that he’s a vegetarian.

  15. And lest we forget, the Beach Boys pop music salute to the drive-in:

    Still sounds kewl, too.

  16. “As odd as that concept sounds…” C’mon, that’s more than a bit disingenuous, don’t you think? To hear you speak of it, it is a miracle that anybody even survived. I don’t mean to sound defensive, but when someone attacks a dearly held childhood memory as hokey and unworthy, it does tend to get my dander up a little bit. Drive in theaters still exist. There are three in operation within easy driving distance of my house. Even back then, we knew better than to get any of the dinner items at the concession counter. I eat meat and I owe no one an apology for it.

  17. You find drive-in movie theaters hard to understand? How parochial of you!

    Drive-ins are more than MPAA entertainment. They’re an excellent way to entertain kids with too much energy from long summer days. It’s a way for parents to take rambunctious kids to a social venue where the chaos of the kids has a venue (the play ground in front of the screen.)

    It’s a place, where as a kid, you can swing IN THE DARK and try to swing high enough to CAST YOUR SHADOW ON THE SCREEN (or that was the goal anyway – swinging that high in the dark is rather scary.)

  18. Maybe just my take, but constructive criticism: I read your tone as attempting to write as if your audience is a crowd of pop-anthro enthusiasts with mores and sensibilities as you expect them to be in about 25 years.

    Boing-boing readers from space, in other words.

    If you went more for direct, less affected writing, I think I, at least, would appreciate it more.

  19. We hit the Stanford Drive-In pretty regularly throughout the summer here in Kentucky. It can’t be beat for an evening of blankets, family, and in our case, fried pickles. If the movie’s boring, no problem. The Milky Way is right overhead and I’ve taught several of my children how to find constellations during particularly bad second features (usually before they fall asleep; the second film is usually for the older moviegoers).

  20. Meat should always be eaten unapologetically.

    Man, if there was a drive-in around here that served decent food like that, vs the standard theater trash, I’d actually go to movies. Movie out with the family and a meal at the same time. What could be better?

  21. Mmm mmm good. Makes me look forward to our good ole drivin in New Hartford, CT (Pleasant Valley Drive-in). They have to have some of the best drive-in food around though they really need to start having tartar sauce for the clam boat!

  22. Wow. I’m saving these comments as they represent perhaps the quintessential example of the literalnet. Those earlier posts are priceless. Heck, I’m forwarding the link to Molly Wood right now.


  23. When I was a kid back in the 70’s we would just bring our own food to the drive-in. Pop-corn, sandwiches, drinks and deserts – just like a picnic!

  24. Sweet Mother of Christ, I want some’a that Hot Meat Product. I may have to reverse-engineer a machine to make it. How hard can it be? Granted, the Biltong cupboard brought howls of opprobrium to the household; plus incandescent bulbs are rarer & rarer nowadays. But once they get a taste of that Home-Cooked Hot Meat, well…

  25. In the late 60’s I had an after-school job setting things up at the Redstone Drive-In in Dedham, Massachusetts. There were several Redstone theaters around the Boston area, owned by the father of Sumner Redstone.

    One of the jobs was to take the slices of pizza that did not sell the previous night and scrape off the cheese and toppings. The crust was then used to make new pieces of pizza by the night crew. I also mixed the grape and orange drinks that you might remember: they were displayed in a clear plastic domed dispenser with a pump that constantly circulated the drink. The drink was artificially sweetened, I suppose with cyclamate which was banned in the USA in 1969 since it was thought to be carcinogenic.

    I was allowed to eat all the popcorn I wanted. It was delivered in large plastic bags.

    I think one of their other theaters had large models of Redstone missiles that you could see as you drove in.

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