A Night at the Movies, ‘50s Style

The Monetta Drive-In, a blast from the past.

A 70-mile afternoon drive to Monetta takes you to a 1950s cultural icon: the drive-in theater. Consider a “dusk trip” to the Big Mo, which begins its season March 1. Make your way to I-20 West and take Exit 33 (S.C. Route 39). Follow S.C. 39 to Monetta (approximately 7 miles), then turn right onto U.S. 1. The drive-in is a mile down U.S. 1 on the right. If you use GPS, the physical address is 5822 Columbia Highway North, Monetta S.C.

Ease along to a parking spot with a good view of the screen and get ready for a great family event. Bring your dog if it’s well behaved. Bring lawn chairs too and sit on the grass if you like. Tune in movie audio over three different frequencies and get ready for the show. The days of hanging a clunky speaker on your car window are passé.

When the lights drop, that one-time Mecca for wanderlust teenagers — the drive-in — flashes Hollywood idols onto the silver screen and the aroma of grilled hot dogs and buttered popcorn fills the air. At the Big Mo you partake of Americana. The drive-in is unique in that it is the only one in South Carolina to survive since the heyday of drive-ins in the 1950s.

The concession serves standard fare, such as hot dogs, hamburgers and pizza. Funnel cakes and cotton candy bring a state fair feel to the evening. Popcorn is a given, as are soft drinks. Prices are very good, nothing like the big fees multiplex theaters charge. (You can’t bring your own food. No alcohol.)

When Richard and Lisa Boaz opened the Big Mo March 26, 1999, they saved a cultural icon from junkyard duty. “The Wizard Of Oz” debuted, and some 60,000 cars have since rolled in for family fun and a return to the 1950s. Here’s your chance to add to the total. Just get there an hour early because people get turned away when tickets sell out. During inclement weather the show goes on. Go when peach trees are abloom for a touch of Palmetto State beauty.

Frequent patrons get Stargazer cards for a $10 credit, and it’s not just marketing. The Monetta heavens, free of big-city light pollution, sparkle with celestial treats. One night a total lunar eclipse occurred, and, “One year,” said Richard Boaz, “Mars put on a fantastic show.”

An evening at the Big Mo is quite a treat. Visit the Big Mo’s Web site and see what’s coming soon. Gates open one and a half to two hours before show time. Rediscover what it’s like to be 17 again at a ‘50s icon in peach country. The Big Mo.

If You Go …

• Admission (cash only) $8 adults (12 & over), $4 kids (4 to 11), under 3 free.
• Gates open at 6:30 p.m. • Show starts around 8:15 p.m.
Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.

• For Directions:




Learn more about Tom Poland, a southern writer, and his work at www.tompoland.net. Email day-trip ideas to him at [email protected]

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