We’ve done a lot of talking about Bengies, Maryland’s only remaining drive-in theater. I hope it sticks around for a long time. Earlier this month, I happened to be visiting Washington DC and was pleasantly surprised to be able to drop by for Bengies’ 2013 season opener. But I didn’t go in. Let me explain.
First I visited Bengies’ web site, which is where I learned the good news that the place would be open while I was nearby. On its Home page, Bengies hauled out the all-caps to say “Click Here for things EVERYONE needs to know BEFORE they arrive.” So I did.
First of all, getting pictures for Carload was going to be a problem. “No photographing, image capturing, or audio recording anywhere on the premises, this includes the entrance road.” Yikes! And that was the friendly version compared to the House Rules page: “If we see any sort of camera, video recorder, or cell phone with the capabilities of taking pictures being used to capture a picture OF ANYTHING, you and the party with you, will leave immediately without a refund. NONE of these DEVICES may be used AT this theatre FOR ANY REASON.” All-caps and bold! Double yikes!
Over in the FAQ page, there’s a long explanation of why they’re so sensitive about all that. To summarize, they had some bad experiences, then some folks were posting Bengies photos on the internet without permission, and somebody even recorded the owner’s voice and used it “in ways you could not even imagine.” You’re right, I can’t imagine that. To summarize, “You may record NOTHING you may capture an image of NOTHING.” Ooh-kay then.
As I prowled around the web site, I found similar stern warnings about any number of other inflexible drive-in policies. Mind you, I’m a firm believer in letting any business set its own rules. There’s nothing wrong, per se, about all these all-caps rules, and anyone who patronizes such a business should go along with them. But their tone made me wonder whether Bengies would be an unpleasant place to visit. So I didn’t. I stood in the parking lots of neighboring businesses and photographed the glow of the Bengies sign against the turquoise twilight sky. Then I grabbed a snack at the McDonalds drive-through and drove back to my hotel.