Alf O'Rouke behind the MC at the opening of the Biloela Drive-In Theatre.
Alf O'Rouke behind the MC at the opening of the Biloela Drive-In Theatre. Contributed

Let's go back to the drive-in

QUITE a few comments on a Biloela community Facebook page stirred memories about the old days of the Biloela Drive-In Theatre.

Some remembered sneaking in through the hole in the fence, movies they saw, hiding in the boot of the car and all the good times that were had.

The Biloela Drive-In Theatre was built by John and Eileen McGovern and opened in 1973.

Mr McGovern passed away some years ago but Eileen is still alive at the age of 98 and lives at Wahroonga Retirement Village.

Their daughter, Glenda Vasey, worked at the drive-in along with her siblings and looks back on the time with fond memories.

"It was a business for Mum and Dad, we had to work but it was a pretty social thing,” Glenda said.

"We would stand around and chat, it was as much (a social time) as it was entertainment.

"Often people used it as their family night out, buy tea and watch a movie.”

Glenda remembered the time when her father would go around checking boots of cars.

"There were quite often people smuggled in boots, they would come through the gate and the boot would be sitting a bit low so we would tell Dad,” Glenda said.

"We would just put them out, make them leave.

"And the people that brought them in too - that made some people very unhappy because they paid for tickets but they knowingly snuck people in.”

Glenda remembered on occasionally they would have to deal with people drinking.

"Mr friendly policeman would come down and have a chat to someone on the odd occasion,” she said.

"And some people would come and watch the movie from the streets if the speakers were turned up, abit like today's version ofpiracy and copying movies.”

Some of the movies Glenda remembered showing at the drive-in were the first Godfather followed by Godfather II, The Exorcist, French Connection, The Deer Hunter, Kramer v Kramer, A Clockwork Orange and Carrie.

"Jaws was a popular one and Stars Wars were always popular,” she said.

"The drive-in was great because it gave parents theability to put kids in their PJs and not have to worry about displacing them.”

Glenda also remembered the old R-rated movies.

"One night I wasn't very popular, we let Mum and Dad have the night off and this car came in to see the R-rated movie and I could tell they weren't old enough,” she said.

"I told them no and they got mad, saying they came all the way from Moura, but it wasn't worth risking our licence.”

The theatre had room for about 150 cars and some nights they would have to turn people away.

"People travelled from Theodore, Moura, from across the Valleys,” Glenda said.

"We were the closest one, the next nearest drive-in would have been in Rockhampton.”

Unfortunately Glenda's parents had to sell the drive-in a few years later.

"If Mum had her way, it would still be running,” Glenda said.

"She loved the drive-in, it was her baby.”

A lot of people didn't realise how expensive it was to run a drive-in, Glenda said.

"The rates, the cans, the projectionist, it employed quite a few people, we had a full canteen,” she said.

"And when Mum and Dad showed a movie, they had to pay for it and it depended on how it was set up with the film company.

"Some companies you would pay for the reels but some would take money from the takings on the night.

"Some would take up to 80% of the takings.”

Mr McGovern leased the drive-in to a company called Leisure Time, which ran it before closing down some years later.

"Videos did have a lot to do with that, it was a sign of progress, if you call it that,” Glenda said.

"Videos killed drive-ins.”

While Glenda did watch some films for nights on end, Glenda said she still loved movies.

"It is something that I never ever lost, my love of movies,” she said.