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Back when I was a kid in the ‘50s, my Mom and Dad would put my younger sister and I in our PJs and load us into the non-seatbelted backseat of our family barge and take us to a drive-in movie theater for a double feature. After the first movie, we were expected to be tired enough to fall asleep in the back while Mom and Dad watched the second feature and then we drove home.

Now, I was too young to remember exactly what that entailed from the driver’s seat perspective, but I’m pretty sure it went something like this: Drive up to the ticket window and pay for four tickets, then find a suitable parking spot as close to the middle of the giant screen as possible, being careful not to hit the stanchion containing a really cool mono speaker. Once parked, Dad would shut the headlights off, turn the car key to ‘Off’ and then, after removing the speaker from its post and passing it through the open window, roll said window mostly up (yes, with a crank!) until the speaker could be hooked over the top. Once in place, he would turn the little knob until the volume was appropriate and we were set…until someone wanted popcorn. Then, because he couldn’t really open the door with the speaker attached, he’d reversed the process, go buy the popcorn and come back with hands filled with goodies, and after passing them around the car, reattach the speaker. Obviously, it was best to confine the refreshment stand runs to before the movie began.

This system worked well until a tired parent or two over the years drove off at the conclusion of the second movie, without remembering that the speaker was still attached to the car, and tore the wire out of the post or maybe even the post out of the ground!

By the time my e30 left Garching in 1990, most drive-in movie theaters had gone the way of the Dodo bird. However, there were still a few around and most still looked decidedly as they did in the 50s. Fast-forward to several years ago, Heather Centrella approached the Board and asked if we’d like to do a drive-in movie night for our Chapter and all concurred that it would be fun. Sheila and I signed up and we drove our 1990 M3 that night. We drove up to the ticket booth, paid for our tickets, found a suitable parking space as close to the center of the giant screen as possible, turned the headlights off, turned the car key to ‘Off’, then pulled lawn chairs out of the trunk and basically tailgated with fellow CVC members until the movie began. At that point, we returned to our car, turned the key one click to the accessory mode, turned on the radio, dialed in the designated FM station and listened to the movie over the car’s 4-speaker stereo system. Oh yeah, and maybe we slightly reclined the 8-way manually adjusted front seats for more comfort. Some in our group wished to watch from their lawn chairs, so they turned their radio volumes up higher so that they could still hear from outside their cars.

Click the fast-forward button again, and now it’s September 2018. A few weeks prior, Dave Mucciacciaro had come to the Board and asked if we’d like to try another drive-in movie night. We said “sure, the last time was fun, so why not?!” Sheila and I once again signed up and this time we drove our 2018 440i. So, how different could it be from only a few years back?

We drove up to the ticket booth, paid for our tickets, found a suitable parking space as close to the center of the giant screen as possible, fully pressed the ‘Start’ button to shut the car off, pulled lawn chairs out of the trunk and tailgated with fellow CVC members until the movie began. As before, some in the group chose to watch the movie from their lawn chairs, but instead of having to rely on FM car radios, Dave had brought a large portable speaker to pipe the sound ‘round. At that point, Sheila and I returned to our car, and I pressed the ‘Start’ button once, without my foot on the brake, so the car wouldn’t start, but would only power up accessory mode, and that’s where the fun began! As I turned the radio on and fiddled with the iDrive controller to “dial in” the designated FM station so we could listen to the movie on the car’s HiFi Sound System with 7-channel 205-watt amplifier, Dave approaches the car and asks if we know that our headlights are on. Yes, the automatic headlights have activated when we went into accessory mode by pressing the ‘Start’ button. I twist the headlight switch to ‘Off’. A few seconds later, Dave returns and says, “Now your Daytime Running Lights are on.” Of course they are! So next I go through the iDrive menu to find “Exterior Lighting” then “Daytime Running Lights” and uncheck that box. We adjust our 20-way power seats for more comfort and settle in. It was at that point that I realized that the still-lit iDrive screen was in our line of sight. I was pretty sure there’s a way to shut that off, but by now the movie is about to begin, so we find the brochure the theater handed us when we paid and leaned it against the screen (purpose served!). Okay, one last problem, the Head-Up Display was still visible in the center of my view from the driver’s seat (could my Dad ever have fathomed such a thing?!). With no more time to fiddle, I reclined my seat further and the steering wheel thoughtfully blocked the HUD so I could enjoy the movie.

Who knew that BMW should have an entire section in the owner’s manual entitled: “What to do if you plan to go to a drive-in movie.” Oh technology!

~Bob Morin