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  • I'm fairly confident that I should have been born some time between the mid to late 1930s and very early 1940s. This might sound odd coming from someone who has tried to keep themselves up to date in popular technologies, even taking employment that depends upon it. Regardless, I feel strongly about my placement in history.

    For one, the music of today pales in comparison to the melodies of yesteryear. Given the choice between Katy Perry and Dion and the Belmonts, Dion wins every time (sorry Katy). Had I been born then I would have grown up with Glenn Miller and Frank Sinatra. I would have matured with Del Shannon, The Fleetwoods, and Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers. What a glorious decade to be in. Still, It's not the music that did me in. I was mesmerized by the silver screen.

    For a long time now (going on nine years) I have totally immersed myself in all things cinema. I have left no genre unturned. One particular summer I found myself devouring sci-fi films of the 50s and early 60s. Those classic, somewhat comical, and always enjoyable films dug a special place in my heart. Where did this sudden love for cheesy and campy sci-fi come from? I think I know the answer.

    There's a restaurant in Walt Disney World's Hollywood Studios called the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant. The exterior of the building boasts a very retro, Googie style neon sign. Below the sign near the door is a convertible turned dining vehicle, complete with booth seats and tables. I first went saw visited this eating establishment in my early teens, and have revisited every time I go back to WDW. The lasting impression it has made cannot be quantified.

    The lobby of the restaurant looks like the backside of a soundstage, complete with wooden frames, stage lights, and signs pointing out certain aspects of the set. There are vintage movie posters like Attack of the 50 Foot Woman and Plan 9 From Outer Space, two icons of a bygone era in cinema history. A Disney cast member leads you and your party down a corridor and out into the dining area. That's where the fun begins.

    The corridor empties into a huge open space. The walls are made to look like a landscape of hills, houses, and mountains, complete with blinking and shooting stars. In the rear sits the snack/projection house (in reality the kitchen). In front of it is a drive-in theater lot packed with cars, speakers, and wait staff. Opposite the projection house is the movie screen, running a continuous barrage of sci-fi trailers, refreshment reminders, news reels, and cartoons. Put everything together and you have the most unique dining experience known to man. The Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant.

    When I first laid eyes on the dining area I was in shock. This was the coolest thing I had ever seen in my whole life. I still drop my jaw in awe whenever I revisit. Being able to sit down in a car next to real drive-in movie speakers (the ones on the post that you would hook onto the door of the car) is nothing short of magical. Having only gone to a drive-in once up to that point in my life, this was something out of a dream. No radios, no worrying about people playing football in front of your car, nobody honking horns or flashing lights onto the screen. There was only food, drinks, and the images flashing on screen. I had no idea that this dining experience would influence me so much. I still go nuts over it. The pictures I have taken since remind me of that first time I walked into that open room with all of those cars.

    It seems like I would have fit right in during those days. Taking my girl up to the drive-in. Catching a double feature of The Blob and It: Terror from Beyond Space, then heading over to the local burger joint and listening to some late night radio. Basically living a combination of Grease, American Graffiti, and Pleasantville.

    But then I think. The one upside of living today is being able to revisit those movies and the music any time I want. Back then there were no DVDs, mp3 players. You had to buy a record or buy a ticket to movies. Now I can watch The First Man into Space on my laptop on the train or plug in my phone and belt out a few golden oldies by Bobby Darin. In a way I'm lucky, but boy would I love to go back for just one night. I guess The Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater will have to suffice.
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