[played by Walter Matthau] [about his friend Felix Unger]: "I know him. He's too nervous to kill himself. Wears his seat belt in a drive-in movie.”—The Odd Couple, screenplay adapted by Neil Simon from his play, directed by Gene Saks (1968)
When I heard this line last night while watching Neil Simon’s classic comedy on TCM, I guffawed and decided that I would use it for today’s “Quote.” Then came a second thought: How many younger viewers of my blog would even understand the term “drive-in movie”?
Then, a third thought: Perhaps more than I might image. With multiplexes closing all across the country because of COVID-19 restrictions, drive-ins are the de facto venues where people can watch movies and other performances in safety.
After falling from their 1958 peak of 4,000 to only 305 in October 2019, drive-ins are emerging as an alternative of sorts for people who want to leave their homes without endangering their health or lives. The virus is not only spurring business for those such operations that have remained open against the odds all these years, but is also spurring spontaneously created drive-ins in shuttered malls and other empty parking lots, according to this article from Bloomberg last month.
Only time will tell if this is a temporary expedient or if the virus halts the decline of this peculiarly American invention. What will likely endure is Simon’s hilarious comedy about two mismatched male roommates—a relationship that is not only a metaphor for marriage, but a title that itself has become a metaphor for unlikely friends.