If you passed by the 99W Drive-In in Newberg on any given afternoon, it would be easy to presume the place had been sitting abandoned for decades.
For one thing, it's a drive-in. The novelty of watching a movie through the windshield of a station wagon—or canoodling in the back of a sedan under the guise of watching a movie—wore off around the time VHS and chill became a thing. And the marquee facing the road would seem to have preserved its time of death in amber. Now showing? The 1975 blockbuster Jaws.
Check back closer to sundown, though, and you'd find the area suddenly buzzing with life, or at least the sound of idling engines. A line of cars snaked from the entrance along the shoulder of the adjacent highway, past the McDonald's and into a residential area around the corner. No, a bunch of local kids hadn't broken in to throw a socially distant rave—indeed, 200 people had chosen to spend a Friday night in 2020 inside their vehicles, watching a clunky mechanical great white dine on vacationing New Englanders.
It's a sign of the times, or at least of this very particular and peculiar moment. A global health crisis has at once made us even more dependent on the machines that increasingly run our lives and sent us reeling back to the Stone Age—or at least the Ford administration. With traditional movie theaters still shuttered, the state's few remaining drive-ins are experiencing a spike in business as one of the only truly safe ways for the public to gather during Phase 1. And in Newberg, where options are limited to begin with, that's made the 67-year-old 99W the hottest nightspot in town.
The experience is not unlike what you might remember from childhood or, depending on your age, read in a history book. Couples bundled up in truck beds and open hatchbacks, others sat in lawn chairs with dogs at their feet. Shortly after dusk—after a string of vintage commercials for bygone institutions like Chilly Dilly Pickles and trailers for movies that now won't hit screens for another year—John Williams' iconic score piped in through FM radio. Two hours later, Roy Scheider hits an unlikely bull's-eye, sending chunks of shark into the atmosphere. As the credits rolled against a blackened sky, a chorus of honks were sent up in approval.
America might be a divided place right now. But Americana this pure is hard to argue against.
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