SIOUX CITY | Cultural archeology was the term used to describe a new photo exhibit in Sioux City documenting the decline of the nation’s drive-in movie theaters.
The series, which is on display in the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center, captures how watching movies at outdoor theaters from the comfort of a car lost out to the convenience of large indoor screens, DVDs and the Internet.
Black-and-white and colored photos shot by Michael Flecky show dilapidated movie marquees, storm-damaged screens and overgrown parking lots. Many of the sites have been abandoned for decades.
“It’s haunting in some ways to come across these old sites,” Flecky said Sunday as he gave a presentation on his work. “It’s a little like coming on an old cemetery.”
Flecky, who started taking photos of drive-ins in 1984, has since gone on to visit abandoned sites and some of the few remaining theaters dotting the countryside across the nation.
Roland and Dolores Holder, of Hinton, said movie theaters are special to them. The couple’s first date was at a drive-in in 1951.
Drive-ins were popular with teenagers and younger adults they since they provided an opportunity to go out with friends or a date.
“Someone asked me what was playing, I said who cares,” Roland Holder joked as he talked about his date.
Sioux City high school senior Sadie Kimmel, 18, said she still remembers her first trip to a drive-in eight years ago to watch a Harry Potter movie.
Kimmel only goes to the drive-in when she visits family near Lockport, N.Y., since none remain near Sioux City.
“It’s a different atmosphere,” she said. “It’s also cheaper than a regular theater. It was $3 to go to the drive-in. My boyfriend and I just went to a movie at the theater. That was $9.75 per person.”
Flecky said he is not sure what he will do with the exhibit moving in the future. The gallery has also been shown in New York, Nebraska, Iowa and Pennsylvania.
Given the pop cultural draw, Flecky said there is enough interest to find new ways to tell the story for future generations.
“I think I’ve got enough here to write a book,” he said.