At the Drive-In

At the Drive-In

At the Drive In

directed by Alexander Monelli

starring Jeff Mattox, Virgil Cardamone, Matt McClanahan


If you do something you love, it will never be work. But it won’t pay very well, so you’ll need a job you don’t like to finance the one you do. In the postwar heyday of car culture, drive-in movies were the mating ground of a generation and cheap entertainment for the families that grew out of that process. But today we see movies on telephones and kids don’t want to drive much anymore. Thus, the iconic drive in move is fading fast.

But a few survive, and the Mahoning Drive-In shows how it’s done. First you need a drive-in that’s still standing. Then you need a crew of film buffs who understand how 35 mm projectors work, and lastly you need someone with deep pockets or fine business sense. Now you are ready to perform this labor of love. In Mahoning we see one set of diehards working to the keep their beloved theater open and operating a modest if sometimes negative profit. Their first crisis: no one releases on 35 mm anymore and digital projecters are expensive. So, the group decided to just do “classics.” That’s anything on film that made enough money that we remember it. Fortunately, that gives them a mountain of 1980’s material with great comedy, horror and adventure. Teen sex comedies never go out of fashion. Other challenges include supporting ancient film projectors, avoid the film stock catching fire from the intense lights, and recruiting new people how to run antique machinery. It’s almost like keeping a steam engine alive. But the good news comes from the patrons, many who drive from distant states to recall their early days.

Baby boomers will look upon this project with the thought “Oh, what fun” and the younger set will think: “What a painful way to see a movie”. But everyone will recognize the dedication to the past shown at the Mahoning drive-in. It’s always fun to hang with the enthusiasts, it tends to rub off on you.

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