Sex at Drive-Ins
Going back to the early days of drive-ins, or "ozoners" as they were also called, their reputation as "passion pits" continues to this day. Despite offering privacy for teen make-out encounters and other such activities, most owners promoted their drive-ins as places of family entertainment and openly discouraged the after-dark encounters of young lovers. There were even some communities that raised objections over it when they felt it was getting out of hand. Just as stories of sneaking in to drive-ins under the fence or in the trunk of a friend's car get repeated over and over, so will tales of love at the drive-in live on forever.
Sex On Screen
While drive-ins certainly had a reputation as places of risque sexual encounters, as businesses, they were more affected by the sexual content of films shown on their screens. The furor over the content of some films being shown at the drive-in goes back to the 50s, when it was reported in the Detroit Times that adult films such as "The Burning Question," "Guilty Parents," and "How to Take a Bath," were being shown at the Fort, Grand River and Gratiot Drive-Ins. Sometimes operators would slip these features in at the end of a season to generate some extra profit. A showing of "Hurly Burly" brought out the sheriff at the Division Drive-In in Grand Rapids, even though the film had been cleared by the censors for Detroit, Chicago and elsewhere. The film was confiscated on the last night of its run as the Michigan Archdiocese raised objections in its newspaper.
Despite threats and objections by local police and religious leaders, and a steady decline in attendance by the mid-1960s and early 1970s, this issue continued to plague the industry as more and more operators were looking to boost their profits through the showing of exploitation material. Often churned out by producers and directors from American International Pictures (AIP), this studio made what are some of the classics of the genre, movies that ranged from "Beach Blanket Bingo," numerous Vincent Price horror films such as "Tomb of Ligea," to biker films like "Hell's Angels," as well as exploitation films like "Blacula." Some drive-ins of course eventually began showing XXX rated films which really alienated them from the community and sped up their demise.