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Opening Arguments

The last picture show

Drive-in memories: 1970, near Fort Hood, Texas, crammed in a VW Beetle with three other soldiers, sucking on Bali Hai wine and watching "Night of the Living Dead." Much earlier, outside Hazard, Kentucky, 10 years old, sitting on the bench in front of the concession stand with all the other walk-ins; a girl kissed me, I got embarrassed, and all my friends laughed at me on the walk home. A little later, same drive-in, with my parents and brother and sister, trying desperately to stay awake through "Giant," which seemed to me to be the longest movie ever made. Fort Wayne, Indiana -- well,  never mind that.

It's strange that everything is becoming a drive-through these days, but the original stay-in-your car experience is gradually disappearing. Indiana is losing another one:

Business had been fair recently, having been hurt by Indiana's adoption of daylight saving time last year. The later sunsets meant that movies couldn't start until late, which dried up the weekday business, Gregory said.

They discussed opening a new drive-in at another location but opted not to. Instead, they'll sell their equipment to other Indiana drive-ins.

With the Clermont's closing, Indiana will have 22 drive-in theaters, down from a peak of 125 in 1958, according to Drive-Ins.com, a Web site that tracks drive-in theater closings. In the greater Indianapolis area, drive-ins still operating include the Tibbs Drive-In, Canary Creek Drive-In Theatre in Franklin, Center Brook Drive-In in Martinsville and the Skyline Drive-In in Shelbyville.

There are periodic reports about a resurgence of drive-ins; I was enthusiastic about one last year. But I suspect these are just momentary up-tics in the downward spiral. There are too many other entertainment options, most of them available in the home. And going to the drive-in is a strange combination of having an outside adventure and staying in a familiar environment, only partially satisfying each desire.

I've always loved the drive-in, though. Whoever I'm with and I can talk all we want to and not have to hear anybody else's inane chatter. And even when my car if full of a cluttered mess, at least it's my mess.