Going Attractions: The Definitive Story of the American Drive-in Movie

Synopsis: Once a vibrant part of American culture, drive-ins reached their peak in the late 50s with almost 5,000 dotting the nation. Although drive-ins are experiencing a resurgence, today less than 400 remain. In a nation that loves cars and movies, why haven't they survived?
Director(s): April Wright
Production: Passion River Films
85 min

-The show starts in two minutes. [ Old-time instrumental music

plays ] [ Rock music plays ] -The drive-in

is a holy American icon. It's actually a phenomenon. -My earliest memories

of the drive-in really had nothing to do

with movies. It really had to do

with being at the drive-in. -They were heavily teenaged, but there were also

young families. -There wasn't internet,

there wasn't computers, and there wasn't the television. -The drive-in sort of came

out of this car culture, this time where we were trying

to do everything in a car, to be able to eat in your car, and then to be able

to watch a movie from your car. And the drive-in kind of married

Hollywood and cars, that post-war euphoria

of optimism. -There's something

about going to the drive-in. Being outside

with a group of people really makes a difference

than just regular moviegoing. -By 1958, there was almost

5,000 drive-ins in the country. -They are becoming

harder and harder to find. You know, what happened

to all the drive-ins? -They get plowed under.

Something gets built over it. And after five years, people have forgotten

what was there before. -Walmarts were buying

the properties and whatnot. -Developers would come in, and they'd say

to a drive-in owner, "I'll give you $500,000

for your property." -If you go by there, you'll see

the ghosts of the place, the way it was, and I don't even need

to see a picture of it. The memories of the place

are still there. -Maybe some of this

really could make a difference if people looked at this and said,

"Hey, what did happen?" [ Old-time movie

instrumental music plays ] -More than 70 million people

in the United States go to the movies each week

to get away from their cares and to find entertainment

and thrills on the magic screen. -In the '30s, which was the height

of the big studio system, the moviegoing experience

was like a night in the theater. Really gave the ordinary citizen

the feeling that they were in a palace. Beautiful seats

and a large stage that could be used for musical productions before

or after the film. All through the 1930s

and into the '50s, when people went out

to the movies, American society

was a little bit more formal, so people would dress up. When you see pictures of audiences

in those earlier decades, they are very formally dressed. - Take me to the drive-in

picture show When I'm with you,

that's where I want to go With the stars above,

we fell in love At the... -Richard Hollingshead Jr.

decided to put a sheet up

between some trees and bring the projector outside

and screen some movies. -My dad -- he put a Model "A"

Ford on our driveway, put a projector on the hood,

and put a screen on the tree. -He decided

to start tinkering around with different ways

of placing cars and eventually became what we consider

the ramp car system now, where cars would

pull up on a ramp. He placed several cars on blocks

to raise them -- the front of the car,

up and down. -When they first built them, they had a fixed ramp

in front of a bulkhead. You couldn't drive over it. -I believe he originally did it

for his mother. -My grandmother Donna

is the one that started it. She was a big woman --

6 foot tall. She couldn't fit in the seat. [ Laughter ] -It grew

and started charging admission and eventually had to move

out of the yard and to a separate location. -The first drive-in theater

opened in Camden, New Jersey,

on June 6, 1933. -And at that time, they were charging

25 cents a carload. -The idea went over quite well. They started springing up

around the country. The drive-ins were supposed

to be paying royalty fees to what was then known

as Park-in Theatres Corporation, though a lot of drive-ins

didn't. -Wilson Shankweiler

took four acres of land and made

Shankweiler's Auto Park, which opened in 1934. He actually paid Hollingshead

2 cents per patron. And he had

two very loud speakers. You could wake up

the neighborhood. -I'm sure

that ultimately became a problem with people hearing the movie

who weren't watching the movie. -The Pico drive-in -- they had speakers mounted in front of where you would

pull your car up to. -Back when drive-ins

first started, they didn't have names. Back then,

they were just "drive-in." [ Mid-tempo rock music plays ] -By 1942, around the start

of World War II, there were about 100 drive-in

theaters in the country, and that stayed that way

pretty much throughout the war. -Fire. -After World War II,

the troops were coming home. The economy's up. People were buying cars again. - Got me a new car It's a Cadillac

Coupe de Ville -World War II -- a lot of shortages

of rubber and fuel. So families didn't have

the resources, if they had a car,

to keep it running. After World War II,

all of that changed. The car became kind of a symbol

of post-war freedom. [ Bluesy rock music plays ] - It takes more than money - More than money - Keep a man warm at night - Takes more than money - More than money -After World War II,

after the belt tightening, families can be on the move

much more easily. First of all, they were moving

into newly developed suburbs. -Like so many people these days,

we live in the suburbs. -The suburbs. 1/5 of America,

over 32 million people, now live in the suburbs, and 1.25 million more

are moving in each year. -Before the expansion

of the suburbs, with all of the government

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April Wright

April Wright is an American female writer, director and producer. Her debut narrative feature as a writer and director, Layover, won the Silver Lei Award for Excellence in Filmmaking at the 2009 Honolulu International Film Festival. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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