In 1954, Marilyn Monroe married Joe DiMaggio, Bill Haley & His Comets recorded "Rock Around the Clock," and Harvest Moon Twin Drive-In Movie Theatre screened its first film. Over the next decades, it survived the skyrocketing popularity of cable television and even a tornado, but eventually closed in the 1980s. The projectors weren't powered down for long?in 1989, Mike Harroun saw an opportunity to create a place that combined the nostalgic vibe of a 1950s drive-in with the technology of a modern cinema.
These days, sunset is the cue for ultra high-definition digital projectors to whir to life and FM stereo transmitters to broadcast digital 5.1 surround sound into visitors' vehicles. The two screens change their feature films throughout the season, ensuring that crowds can catch first-run summer blockbusters before the explosions become covered with brown spots. Guests may bring their own food for a small fee, or order from a menu featuring piping-hot popcorn, giant dill pickles, and third-pound Black Angus burgers straight from the grill. That combination of old-fashioned entertainment and new-fangled equipment has won the theater plenty of press, including a spot on USA Today's list of the country's 10 best drive-ins.
Watching a movie should be a magical experience, one that transports the mind to places it wouldn't otherwise go. Nothing undercuts that faster than traipsing down a sticky aisle to squeeze into a creaky seat and watch a movie where some guy just staples paper for an hour. The experience couldn't be more opposite at Hollywood Blvd. and Hollywood Palms Cinemas, where people might start an action-packed new release or cult classic by meeting the film's stars. Fans of the theater have written tons of appreciative letters, recalling their experiences hobnobbing with Tippi Hedren before a showing of The Birds, or seeing a cast reunion of Back to the Future, which one mega-fan wrote was "one of the best experiences of [their] life."
But it's not just these meet-and-greets that elevate the experience at Hollywood's theaters. Instead of cramped row seating, there are high-backed swivel chairs encircling tables, and instead of concession stands, there're servers ferrying food and beverages to tables throughout the show. The extensive menu is mostly upscale casual dishes, including the Whoopi Goldburger with Angus beef, bacon, and barbecue sauce. From the bar, guests can order Rat Pack?inspired martinis, craft beers, or specialty cocktails such as the Tequila Mockingbird margarita with raspberry liqueur.
At each location, the architecture and decor rivals that of a film set. The lobby at Hollywood Blvd. is a replica of Grauman's Chinese Theater, and at Hollywood Palms, individual screening rooms pay homage to Marilyn Monroe and The Wizard of Oz. Not surprisingly, the Hollywood Blvd. theater has an on-site museum with real movie artifacts, including costumes worn by the Munchkins, whom the theater successfully petitioned to receive their own star on the Walk of Fame.
Voted "Best Pumpkin Fest" by viewers of Fox News Chicago, Bengtson's Pumpkin Farm captivates visitors with the autumn-themed fun of four new attractions, pig races, a 3-acre corn maze fit for all ages, and the Kids Village complete with a jail and a fire station. Swine speed toward the finish line 10 times daily, spurred on by the cheers of bleacher-seated audiences, and human competitors race playmates or sentient scarecrows through the giant Crazy Corn Maizey's swaying stalks. The Pumpkin Chucker launches gourds skyward, and pint-size patrons mirror mid-air trajectories on kiddy rides such as the new 90-foot Mega Fun Slide and Flying Frogs (free through October 30, excluding pony rides). Ghoulish chefs and mad scientists cook up screams in the Haunted Barn before sending the spooked off to enjoy the soothing effects and bleated lullabies of goats, zebras, kangaroos, and other critters at the petting zoo.
Hollywood Palms Theater, modeled after Hollywood Boulevard and the legendary Chinese Theater, engages moviegoers with its opulent design, a restaurant and bar, and seat-by-seat service. Winning praise from myriad press outlets, the movie house boasts nine distinctive auditoriums, each dressed to a cinematic theme, including Coconut Grove and The Rainbow Room. Within the confines of each theater, rows of high-backed leather chairs comfortably cradle bodies, while the latest Dolby surround sound swathes ears in the tummy rumbles of on-screen actors. An attentive wait staff takes orders throughout films from an extensive menu that includes burgers, sandwiches, pizzas, beer, wine, and cocktails.