What’s so “pure” about obsolete?


So last weekend, I drove eight hours north to watch movies at the drive-in.
The Riverside Drive-In in Vandergrift, Penn. sponsors two film festivals a year: The April Ghoul’s Monster Rama and the Drive-In Super Monster-Rama, which happens in September.

Click this link. for more information about Drive-In Super Monster-Rama.
I’m a fan of schlock horror movies. The worse, the better … sometimes at least. It doesn’t matter to me if the movie comes from the silent era or in this age of digital graphics – if it has a monster in it, I will find time to see it on the big screen.
And if that big screen happens to be outdoors with a food counter that serves grilled hamburgers, deep-fried dill pickles and ice cream sandwiches – all the better. But the real appeal of the Riverside Monster-Rama festivals was the chance to see several relatively “classic” horror movies including the original “Halloween,” “Carrie,” “Phantasm,” “The Hills Have Eyes,” “Suspiria,” “The Beast Within,” and “The Town That Dreaded Sundown.” Given the chance to see these movies on the big screen, well, eight hours is hardly what I’d call a major sacrifice.
But there was another unique feature to this festival that made the long distance trek to the drive-in appealing.
The Riverside was one of several dozen drive-in theaters to participate in a contest sponsored by Honda Motors last summer to buy digital projection equipment. The majority of movie studios are no longer going to make 35 mm film reels of their movies. Digital projection technology has taken over the landscape.
Unfortunately, Riverside was not one of the contest winners. They had to buy their own system.
One of the selling points for the April Ghoul’s Monster Rama is the chance to see classic monster movies in their native habitat – the drive-in theater. Another selling point is that most of the movies are original 35 mm prints.
Before I go on, let me explain that there are two types of people who attend events like the April Ghoul’s Monster Rama.
I go to see horror movies projected on a giant screen. I make fun of them a bit and try to one up my friends on our knowledge of obscure trivia about the movies on-screen. I could care less about the medium in which the movie is being projected.
Others go for the nostalgia of watching a 35 mm print projected on a big screen. They like the projector hiss, the clicking sound of the gears in the sprocket holes, the scratches and edits and jumps.
Emma, one of the Riverside owners, called them “purists.”
Having just purchased a new digital projection system, The Riverside decided to show off their exciting new investment by running a high resolution version of “Carrie” and “The Town that Dreaded Sundown” rather than the faded 35 mm print.
The movies looked beautiful onscreen.
The “purists” complained.

Nobody made a federal case out of it. A few simply expressed their wish that that all the movies would be shown in 35 mm – as they were meant to be seen.
This is the point at which the “purists” and I part ways.
On Saturday night, we were treated to an original 35 mm print of John Carpenter’s “Halloween.” The film debuted in 1978 and the print was original.
Now, I love John Carpenter’s work. He was raised in Bowling Green, Kentucky and graduated from Western Kentucky University. As a big fan, I’ve made a personal study of his work. He works primarily in the horror and science fiction genre, nevertheless, Carpenter is an accomplished filmmaker. He intended his horror movie, which would be a ground-breaker, to be seen in stark seasonal colors of orange, black and white. Black and white, especially.
The 35 mm print, however, is over 35 years old. Color films fade over time. Halloween was also made at a time when studios used cheaper film stock The night time colors were no longer jet black. They had a reddish hue. The other colors in the movie had faded dramatically.
It looked like an aging 35 mm movie.

And where it belongs is on a shelf. What it is not is the movie Carpenter intended audiences to see.
It’s pointless to debate the subject with “purists.” They are in love with the idea of what movies used to be. But watching a gradually disintegrating image on antiquated technology for the sake of “purity” I think rather misses the point.
For me, though, the thrill of this genre is not watching a product in a sad state of decay.
The digital preserves the integrity of the director’s vision. That, for me, is a purer kind of “purity.”
Regardless of the debate, though, it was a great two nights of movie watching.

The Riverside Drive-In has only started sponsoring these festivals in the last three or four years, but it is paying off for them. People have traveled to April Ghoul’s from as far as Tennessee, North Carolina, Nebraska (friends of mine, actually), Michigan and Maryland (friends) hell, even New Jersey (more friends of mine.)
Emma said that each succeeding event has attracted a larger audience.

Drive-Ins are sooo American


By Josh Shepherd

Why  must it fall to strangers to remind us that we have cool stuff at home?
As I mentioned in my column two weeks ago, my wife and I have hosted high school exchange students for the last five years. It has been a rewarding experience in many ways.
Aside from the obvious pleasure of extending my familial connections to people across the Atlantic, I suggest that there is an even greater reward that comes from hosting a different student every year: They keep my world from becoming mundane.
Case in point – The Drive-In Movie theater.
When I ask my hostdaughters what they miss most about their year in Kentucky, the three things mentioned most are free drink refills at restaurants, mud runs, and the drive-in. (They refer to the Bourbon Drive-In specifically because that’s the one we use most.)
“It is so American,” said Maria, my hostdaughter from Norway.
Until they started mentioning it, I never really thought that much about the drive-in experience. However, upon reflection, the act of watching a movie on a warm summer night in a giant parking lot where the grill is serving up hamburgers and french fries and kids are slurping up novelty ice cream treats – I swear that experience is more distinctively American than hot dogs at a baseball game.
There is nothing like it anywhere else in the world.
Those of us living in this area are a bit spoiled. Before I began writing this column, I made a mental count of how many drive-ins are within an hour or so from my home.
In addition to the Bourbon Drive-In, there is the Judy Drive-In near Mt. Sterling, the Sky-Vue Twin Drive-In in Winchester, and the Mountain View Drive-In in Stanton, right in the shadow of Red River Gorge.
To give some perspective, there are no drive-ins around Louisville anymore. At one point in Kentucky’s recent history, there were as many drive-in theaters as there were counties in Kentucky. Of course, tastes and traditions change. These small businesses filled a niche market in the 50s, 60s, and 70s that no longer exist.
The majority of drive-ins have gone dark in this country and chances are, with the advent of new technology in movie projection, there will be even fewer of these family-owned businesses.
That’s because the movie industry is making the transition to digital projection systems.
Digital projection is not new. In fact, most of the major Hollywood studios and the national chains that operate the big cineplexes, like Regal Cinemas and Cinemark, have already invested in the equipment. The technology is not too different from subscribing to streaming movies through Amazon or Netflix. It’s not bad or good, it is just the direction in which the industry is going.
Digital projection equipment, however, is expensive. And considering that most drive-in theaters are seasonal, family-owned businesses, they do not generate the kind of income that would enable them to invest the minimum of $80,000 for the new equipment.
I will refrain from the observation that once again,  technology favors homogenized national chains over private or family-owned businesses — or perhaps I won’t.
However, there is an effort by Honda Motors to try and preserve some of our hometown drive-ins. And Bourbon Drive-In is one that could benefit from the effort.
At Projectdrivein.com, Honda has pledged to buy five digital projection systems and award them to the five family-owned drive-ins that get the most votes on their web page.
Fans can vote once a day for their favorite drive-in.
If fans want to participate, they have to hurry. The deadline to vote is within about two days from the time the Cynthiana Democrat hits the street.
Of course, it helps to have good reasons to support drive-ins. If you don’t find the preservation of an American experience compelling enough reason to offer support, allow me to suggest a few others:
Drive-ins have HUGE screens. There are a lot of good uses for a tablet or a smart phone, but neither AT&T nor Apple will ever convince me that a summer blockbuster with huge explosions looks great on a pathetic 3 inch screen. Please.
Drive-ins serve real food. The cineplex charges $8-9 per ticket, then asks us to accept as our only food choices waterlogged hot dogs, nachos, popcorn, and box candy. At the drive-in, I get a meal with hamburgers, tenderloin, and chicken, french fries, fried pickles, and any kind of ice cream novelty.
Drive-ins are a bargain. In addition to reasonably priced food, you get two movies for the price of admission and no one is asking you to leave when you text.

There’s really no contest in the comparison. The vote costs nothing but a click on the web and you have the option of supporting a small business that delivers a quality service.
Projectdrivein.com. Visit the site and offer your support.