The Eden Drive-In dates its opening back to 1949, but that doesn’t mean it’s a relic of the past.
The drive-in updated to digital projectors in 2014, making its picture and sound—broadcast locally on an FM station—cleaner and crisper than ever. The drive-in also has invested into turning its showings into full-blown events. The first weekend in May, it celebrated “May the Fourth” and “Revenge of the Fifth” with a cast of Star Wars characters who walked around the premises while the screen above showed a double bill of “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Black Panther.”
This Memorial Day weekend (May 25-27), the Star Wars characters will be back on Friday night for a double-feature of the Star Wars spinoff “Solo” and Marvel’s epic “Avengers: Infinity War.”
The Eden Drive-In is the only remaining drive-in theater in the Dan River region. That wasn’t always the case. The Madison Drive-In Theater once operated in Rockingham County, and the Castle Drive-In Theater in Martinsville. Both were part of a wave of popularity for drive-ins as both films and cars came of age in the 1950s. At that time, more than 4,000 drive-ins operated throughout the United States, accounting for about a quarter of all theaters.
Nearly all have closed down. The Castle Drive, for example, closed in 1979, ending with a triple feature of “The Incredible Melting Man,” “The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant” and “The Thing with Two Heads”—which definitely encapsulates the feel of the late ’70s drive-in culture. The advent of digital technology and the significant investment required to upgrade have provided a more recent challenge to drive-in theaters.
The Robertson family, which took over the Eden Drive-In in the early ’90s, made the investment four years ago, buying digital projectors at about $60,000 each. Two of the projectors went to Eden and the other four to Badin Road Drive-In, which also is owned by the family.
Later this spring, the Robertsons will install a new playground at the Eden Drive-In, adding to the options for families with children. People can bring their own food and drinks, or find a variety of items at the drive-in’s grill, including burgers, hot dogs, corndogs, popcorn, funnel fries (basically strips of funnel cake), ice cream, milkshakes, and more.
Visit the Eden Drive-In and check out one of its double-features. Gates open at 6:30 p.m., with the first movie beginning at dark. Tickets, payable with cash only, are $7 per adult, $5 per child ages 6-11, and free for children under age 6.