San Antonio’s Mission may reopen, sort of

I’m excited about the news this week. According to the San Antonio (TX) Express-News, the city may start showing movies again at the site of the old Mission Drive-In. The plans are part of a tax increment reinvestment zone that’s already going to include a library with a facade that looks like a drive-in screen. (You can read all about the library here. Click the link to see the artist’s conception. And click that Express-News link for a great photo that matches how I remember the Mission.)

You could say that the Mission is the reason I started Carload.com so many years ago. In those ancient times before Carload came to be, I lived in Houston, which had no drive-ins. To get my occasional drive-in fix, I’d drive out to a nearby town that had one. Before each trip, I looked around with the rudimentary internet and long-distance, pay-per-minute phone calls to find a movie worth seeing. As it turned out, the Mission won my business every time.

The Mission’s atmosphere was like no other drive-in. Within sight of a real 18th-century Spanish mission bell tower, all the cars packed in together in fairly close quarters. The crowd was a mixture of Hispanics and folks like me who don’t know 10 words of Spanish. Everyone was happy to be there in the cool evening, mixing together at the concession stand. Before the movie and during intermission, car doors were flung open and a rich mixture of Tejano music overwhelmed the drive-in’s speakers. Then the movie started, the music stopped, and we all shared a fun movie experience.

Toward the end of my stay in Texas, I began planning a web site to help drive-in patrons like me know what’s available and what’s showing. Then I moved to Colorado and started Carload to celebrate the dozen drive-ins that were still alive in the state. (Five have closed since then, and the digital projection conversion may claim more this off-season.)

If you’re going to keep a drive-in closed, perhaps the best use of the site is for a community library, especially if you keep the old marquee. I know that I said that I wouldn’t include any more stories about movies in the park that are supposed to be like drive-ins, but I hadn’t considered a situation like this. From now on, outdoor movie stories are eligible for mention here only if they take place at old drive-in theater sites. Are there any others like that I don’t know about?

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