Picture That

Drive-in theater offers chance to go back in time


Apple pie, baseball, bourbon, jazz, Hemingway, and the drive-in theater. Short of Bruce Springsteen dressed as Uncle Sam performing a Fourth of July concert from the Statue of Liberty's torch, you'd be hard pressed to find a more all-American line-up. Unfortunately, for recent generations the drive-in is a mythical place. But for others, it was the king of family entertainment for decades.

"Family and the drive-in is what I got," says Peggy Lawing, owner of Bill's Belmont Drive-In Theatre. She remembers a time when eight drive-ins operated in Charlotte. Now there is none in Mecklenburg County.

Peggy and her late husband, Bill, began leasing the Belmont Drive-In Theatre in 1983. It opened in 1946, and Bill worked there as a teenager. In 1991, the Lawings bought the theater out right.

The Belmont Drive-In is a great place to spend an inexpensive weekend evening with friends, a date, or the whole family. Admission is $8 per car (yes, for a car full of people). The most expensive item at the snack bar is a debilitating 130-ounce barrel of popcorn for $5.

Patrons are treated to a double feature of new releases on the sixty-by-eighty-foot screen. Old-school drive-in aficionados will be happy to see that individual speakers for each car still remain. Young folks will revel in surround sound through their own car speakers by tuning in to the theater’s radio station.

If you go, get there early. Veterans are known to show up two to three hours before the movie starts for more time to allow the kids to play in the large grassy area in front of the screen.

"When you take your kids and drop them off out in front of the walk-in, that isn't what I'd call quality time," Peggy says.

704-825-6044, 314 McAdenville Road, Belmont.