UPDATE: This story has been updated to include information about Super 20 Drive-In's second site.
MAQUOKETA, Iowa — It’s an iconic scene from the 1960s.
A car rolls in and finds a spot in a sea of vehicles. A massive white board stands before them as a hidden projector splashes images on the screen.
Some get out and watch from the grass or the hood of their car. Those with pickup trucks might climb in the back. Others might watch from the comfort of the driver’s seat.
At the drive-in theater, everyone can come together to watch a movie under a ceiling of stars.
Dennis Voy remembers those days well, and he especially recalls the ability of drive-in theaters to create lasting memories.
So, while drive-in theaters have practically become a relic of the past, Voy’s 61 Drive-In Theatre stands to this day, playing a movie every night in the middle of a farm field for anyone willing to make the drive out.
“It’s just a great family experience,” Voy said. “People grew up going to drive-in theaters, and I think they want to share that with their kids.”
When Voy purchased 61 Drive-in Theatre in 1972, there was plenty of competition to go around.
Five drive-ins were to the south in the Quad Cities. Two were in Dubuque, according to Voy.
Dubuque’s two drive-ins are long gone.
The Super 20 Drive-In opened as a one-screen operation in the 1960s near the intersection of U.S. 20 and John F. Kennedy Road. It later moved to near U.S. 20 and North Cascade Road and featured two screens. It closed in the late 1980s.
The other was found off U.S. 52, on John Deere Road, according to Telegraph Herald archives.
Then came the age of home video and multiplex indoor theaters, and drive-in theaters began to dissolve away, unable to compete with the new age of movie watching.
Today, Voy’s drive-in is one of only four remaining in Iowa, but it’s that rarity that has made his theater a highly-sought tourist attraction.
“There are people that drive hours to see a movie here,” Voy said. “They’ll get here hours early to get a good spot.”
Makenzie Schultz has been coming to the Maquoketa drive-in theater her entire life. She remembers being driven out to the theater by her father while growing up. She would play in the field before the movie and usually fall asleep in the car after it started.
When she became an adult and had kids, those memories were something she wanted to pass on to her children.
“It’s not necessarily just a movie,” Schultz said. “It takes you back to what movies used to be. It takes you back to a time that none of us go to experience ourselves.”
To Voy, being at the drive-in is as much of an experience as the movie itself. The quality of the screen and the sound might not be the best in the industry, but there’s no other type of theater where someone can bring their couch on which to watch the movie .
“People have their own preferences of how they want to watch the movie,” Voy said. “It’s unique that our movies can get rained out.”
For Schultz, going to the drive-in is much more than pulling up to watch the latest blockbuster outside. It’s getting there hours ahead to play in the field and grab dinner. It’s huddling together in the back of a pickup truck.
There aren’t many drive-in theaters left, but Schultz is one of many who are certainly glad they can still be found.
“It’s an experience that we really love,” Schultz said. “It’s definitely something that I hope is there for a long time.”