The drive in is fast becoming a myth, a story to tell the great -grandkids and a memory for those of us who can recall when combining a car and a movie was pure magic. There is something about the stars above you, the buttery taste of popcorn, and a movie on a screen the size of a barn. The Montana Drive In in Estill Springs, Tennessee is bringing back those memories ... and creating new ones.
Located off of Tullahoma Highway, the drive in is easy to access and easy to exit. Gates open, and movies start, right on time. Upon arriving, each car receives a menu listing all of the goodies available at the concessions stand. This saves time and money when you go to order. The prices are fair ( hotdog $3.00, Kid's chicken meals $4.00, popcorn $1 -3) when you consider some of the same fare is twice as much in indoor theaters. Refills on drinks and popcorn are half price. The menu is probably the best I have seen at a theatre: chicken, burgers, dogs, drinks, funnel cakes, fried Oreos (heaven! Heaven!), cotton candy, coffee, hot chocolate, shrimp, nachos of many variations, broasted chicken, pizza, sandwiches … go for the fried Oreos and corn nuggets. Fried foods are not greasy and the batter is light and crisp. Chicken is hand-battered every night. The nacho chips were a bit on the stale side, but slathered in chili, cheese, barbecue, or jalapeño, it's hard to notice.
There are three screens, each drive marked clearly upon entrance. The snack bar resembles a big log cabin, with a carved bears motif. The restroom has only three stalls but the line moves at a steady pace. The line for food may move a little slower in between shows so it is best to order upon arrival. Arrive about 45-30 minutes before show time to get settled in.
By people- watching, you can discern the true drive in connoisseur from the "newbie." Those in the know bring lawn chairs, blankets and jackets (in case the night air grows chilly), and can position their vehicles and set up a camp in the time it takes the newbies to ask, "what row should we park on?" Remember the old speaker connected to the fat cable that would sit on a post until you attached it to your car window? This system has been replaced by tuning to an FM station. Radio frequencies are posted on the entrance, in the snack bar, and on the menu so even first timers will not have to channel surf.
The drive in is well maintained. Some cigarette butts are scattered in the the driveway entrance due to irresponsible carloads of people waiting to pay admission at the front booth ($7 for adults, $6 for children over 3), but the parking areas are clean and well-maintained. Each carload receives a plastic trash bag and, after the show, you just tie up the bag and leave it at the old speaker posts for pick-up. The screens are a blazing white for excellent viewing. The sound quality through the radio frequencies is clear for ultimate listening.
Employees, from the man who hands over your ticket to the woman who rings up your food, smile and make you feel glad you came here. They are the type of folks who could be your neighbor ("I can ring up your order here, hon!"). They range in age, from the person who probably had their first kiss at the drive in (watching a James Dean movie, no doubt) to kids who probably think the drive in is a new invention. The younger generation says "thank you" and "ma'me" and "sir" -- a dying breed.
Hopefully the Montana Drive In will be around for a long time. You can find them on Facebook and Twitter. More information can be found on their website HERE or by calling 931-649-3454. It is an easy drive from Nashville and well worth the distance. Don't forget those fried Oreos.
My website HERE - join me on Facebook!