Admittedly, I had never been to a drive-in cinema before. Considering I review films all the time, not having been to a drive-in cinema before was one of my greatest shames. But all that changed when I visited Dromana 3 Drive-In. Located in Dromana, Victoria, the three-screen drive-in (or sneakily four if you consider the screen used in the summer, specific for a deck-chair seating experience) is no stranger to the neighbourhood, screening films now for 58 years and counting since 1962. The cinema complex is a family built and run business, handed down over generations, now being run by Paul Whitaker.
Not knowing what to expect, I arrived stupid early and waited at the complex gates behind a single car for the Second Session of the evening. It wasn’t long before there was a full conga line of cars, eager to get into Dromana Drive-In Cinema for the first weekend that restrictions in Victoria eased. When let in, I was handed a form with a list of instructions on how the cinema experience worked and which channel to tune into on the radio. There was even information on how to order food, which was great.
Because I had arrived so early, I caught the end of ‘Back to the Future’, a film that I wanted to see at the Drive-In for my first experience, but then decided to choose ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ instead, because not only is the film a classic, but I can watch it without feeling the need to watch the rest of the films in the trilogy, because there are none. Once the previous film ended, I noticed that the cinema screen had a frame of fairy-light globes providing much needed ambience for patrons of the previous screening, so that they could leave. When finally parking into a perfect spot to view the upcoming film, I referred to the poles in the ground, which provided specific numbers so that when I ordered my food, the staff would know exactly where I was to deliver the food to me.
Deliver food? Yes! Due to Shel’s Diner at the venue being closed sadly because of the global pandemic and for safety reasons, unfortunately when I visited, the diner was closed. However, food was still available to order and could be delivered straight to your car for free. I don’t think that this is a bad thing! More often than not, the long walk to the car back from a diner could be dangerous – you could trip, you could drop food on the way and it might be much colder by the time you remember where you parked. With food being delivered to your car, the meals are warm, tasty and everything is there ready to be gobbled by you.
The food selection is mouth-watering. With gourmet style cuisine, the food offered at Dromana 3 Drive-In is a diverse selection of burgers, chips, wedges, hot-dogs, nachos, fish n’ chips, dim sims and even jam doughnuts. While the typical candy, soft drinks, choc top and popcorn are also available, I must point out, so are hot drinks in whichever your desired caffeine of choice, as well as delicious MILKSHAKES. Milkshakes in a cinema while watching a movie? Not usually common. At Dromana 3 Drive-In though? A godsend.
If you are going to order food though, it is highly recommended to get to the drive-in early and not only pick a great spot, but once you’ve parked, only then can you order your meal. On the night that I attended, the food was ordered as soon as we parked and arrived while the ads were still playing. Perfection! Did I eat my food all before the movie even started? Yes. But the last thing that you want is to watch a film at the cinema on an empty stomach. The food was tasty, satisfying and I didn’t feel an ounce of guilt either for my food choices. Usually when you have fast food or junk food, you feel a bit heavy and bad after, but with the food served at Dromana 3 Drive-In, it really was so delicious. Highly recommended.
The selection of films at this drive-in are also so great with a healthy mix of recent blockbusters prior to Covid-19 halting cinema temporarily, as well as eclectic mix of iconic classics. You can tell that the programmer is a massive fan of film alone from the wonderful selection of movies lovingly curated specifically for this outdoor cinema venue.
Currently, all tickets must be booked ahead if you intend to go see a film at Dromana 3 Drive-In. But this isn’t a problem as you can book on your phone or on your computer. And these days when we see a movie, how often do we usually line up at the box office for tickets these days? If anything, having the ability to book online gives peace of mind, so that when you do show up – you know you are definitely going to get in. With drive-in cinemas having a resurgence in popularity at present, it is highly recommended that you book ages in advance anyway to avoid missing out. If you are paranoid about the weather, you can wait if you like to suss out on whether it will be clear skies the evening you choose to attend. However, if you are worried your movie will be cancelled like other outdoor cinemas due to the weather being not so great, fear not – the movies will screen regardless, rain or shine.
A highlight, prior to the film commencing, was the old-school Coca-Cola ad that I did not expect to be shown on the big screen. Not only was it hilarious, but it gave both a wonderful nostalgic and authentic feel when drive-in cinemas were all the rage back in the 60s. What was also great about Dromana 3 Drive-In was that before the movie, you had the ability to use a hashtag and upload a photo of yourself at Dromana 3 Drive-In on Instagram – and if you’re lucky, your photo can be shown up on the big screen. I suppose, if you’re quick, you could then also take a selfie with your big screen selfie. I felt that projecting the photos of happy patrons on the big screen was a very neat feature at Dromana 3 Drive-In, although small, really helped add to the overall fun experience.
Pre-Corona, Dromana 3 Drive-In would have had staff dressed in costume to fit with the theme of the biggest film screened on the night. Sadly, I did not witness this, however, I would love to go back to witness this drive-in cinema to the fullest when there are no more restrictions due to the Covid-19. Although there were some things at Dromana 3 Drive-In that I didn’t get to do, the experience was already wonderful enough without. I know that I will absolutely return for a visit in the near future and look forward to attending when Dromana 3 Drive-In can take its next step towards normality.
Dromana 3 Drive-In currently screens Thursdays to Sundays weekly, with usually 6 films screened across two sessions over one night. For more information on prices, programming or even to look at the tasty meals you can order in advance, visit: http://www.dromanadrivein.com.au