Thousands of people all over the country will spend at least part of the upcoming weekend going to the movies.
The moviegoers from the Augusta area and beyond will have an opportunity to enjoy a unique movie experience Aug. 29, 30 and 31 at the 16th annual Labor Day Weekend Triple Feature Extravaganza at the Monetta Drive-in Theatre – also known as The “Big Mo” – in Monetta, S.C.
In addition to triple feature films on three fields, other activities are planned for the event. For example, free popcorn will be handed out to anyone arriving in a classic car or truck or dressed in ’50s and ’60s attire.
“We try to do things in keeping with the reminiscent quality of the drive-in itself,” said Lisa Boaz, co-owner of the Big Mo. “Trivia contests are held during intermission. It’s just great family fun.”
On the main field this weekend, watch Maleficent, Guardians of the Galaxy and Transformers: Age of Extinction. The field two screen will feature X-Men: Days of Future Past, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
On field three this weekend will be a retro triple feature of old movies including American Graffiti, Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. A peek at the scene before the movies on a usual Sunday night before Labor Day would reveal cars lined up at least an hour and a half early to get a good spot. Gates open at 7 p.m. and the movies begin at dusk.
“Cars line up on the south side of the gates,” Boaz said. “If they start lining up too fast, we go ahead and open the gates.”
Inside, children toss balls in front of the big screens while younger ones play in the play area. Adults sit in lawn chairs they bring from home or on tailgates taking in the slightly lower early evening temperatures. Some walk their dogs (pets are allowed as long as they are well-behaved) .
A concession stand in the middle of Field 1 features a variety of items, including corn dogs, hot dogs, burgers, barbecue sandwiches, nachos, pizza, ice cream, boiled peanuts and funnel cakes. A Hawaiian ice machine is sometimes on the scene.
Gone are the car-window speakers that many remember from “the olden days.” Moviegoers tune their radios to the appropriate stations (90.3 FM main field; 95.9 field 2; and 105.1 field 3) and sit back and relax in the privacy of their own cars or watch from their lawn chairs.
Boaz and her husband, Richard, of Irmo, usually stay busy selling tickets the first part of the evening.
The couple, who share fond memories of drive-in movie theaters, stumbled across the Big Mo in 1998 and purchased it in 1999. Few changes were made to the original layout, she said. They mainly repaired what was there, which included renovating the concession stand.
“The drive-in was built in 1951 and closed in 1986,” Boaz said. “When we found it, there were 30-foot pine trees growing in the area. The screen tower was partially missing and the concession stand was barely standing. There was no equipment in the projection room.”
The Boazes added Screen 2 in 2005 and Screen 3 in 2011. Until it became obsolete, the projectory system ran on 35 mm. film reels. In 2011, all the projectors went digital.
“We’ve done well,” said Boaz. “We’ve met people from all over the area and even other countries such as France, Germany and Norway. Military families particularly enjoy it. We get church groups in vans a lot, too.”
Caitlyn Fox, 26, of Harlem, enjoys an occasional movie under the stars.
“My family and I go seven or eight times a summer,” she said. “I hate it that it’s a long way from us. I’ve been going since middle school. I like the fact that I can interact with my family during the movie and not disturb anyone, and I can be laid back and casual. Oh, and I like the boiled peanuts, too.”
Candie Maddox of Martinez said the nostalgic effect appeals to her and her husband, Charles.
“I remember going to the drive-ins on Peach Orchard Road and on Olive Road when I was growing up,” she said. “It’s nice to sit outside and watch the movie and you can’t beat the price.”
Boaz estimated that on a good weekend in the heart of summer, there are probably 200 cars per night. The Big Mo is open March through November, and features the top 10 movies in the nation. Only a handful of drive-in movies like this one still exist and are scattered through-out the country, she said.
The “Big Mo,” located on U.S. Highway 1 in Monetta, is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights only. Patrons can enjoy two movies for the price of one. Three double feature movies are shown each weekend, regardless of rain.
Adult tickets are $8; kids (7-11) are $4; and age 3 and under are free. There is one transaction per vehicle, cash only policy at the box office. No field switching or alcohol is allowed.
For more information and directions, go to www.bigmo.com or call (803) 685-7586.