April Wright has made several good documentaries, includingGoing Attractions: The Definitive Story of the Movie Palace(in which I appear)and Going Attractions: The Definitive Story of the American Drive-in Movie. The latter film is bathed in an understandable nostalgia for the kind of outdoor theaters that flourished in the 1940s, 50s and 60s. Now Wright has gone Back to the Drive-In to pick up the story of how these “ozoners” (as Variety used to call them) made an unexpected comeback during the Covid-19 pandemic… and what has happened since.
The film is loosely structured around cinema verité footage of drive-ins from coast to coast and informal interviews with their owners and managers, a doggedly determined breed of showmen and women who seem to be answering a calling. The Harvest Moon drive-in near Champaign, Illinois has to contend with a railroad train that runs behind the screen every night. The Wellfleet on Cape Cod deals with the fog rolling in. Bengie’s, near Baltimore, has rules of conduct which some patrons ignore. The man who runs the Transit, near Buffalo, New York, uses a Segue vehicle to get around his property and has done so since he did a tie-in with the movie Paul Blart, Mall Cop. The proprietor of the Greenville in the Catskills area is a mixologist whose wife makes home-made ice-cream sandwiches. Every operation is a reflection of the people who run it.
Back to the Drive-In chronicles a hardy lot of individuals who are holding the line against progress and a fickle public. Anyone who harbors warm feelings about the drive-in movie experience should feel right at home.
Back to the Drive-In opens today in Los Angeles at two Laemmle locations. For more information, go to www.goingattractions.com