Adam: Welcome to Reserved Seating. I’m Adam Riske.
Rob: And I’m Rob DiCristino.
The Rep and Out of Print. Ironically, I was saying to Patrick very recently how I was in need of a new one to quench my movie theater documentary thirst. I think the movie gods heard and led me to At the Drive-In. Before we get into the documentary itself, Rob, speak a little bit about your history with this theater.
Rob: I have family near Lehighton, and for years I’ve been passing by the drive-in’s marquee wondering who the hell was setting up such awesome double features. It’s along a major road in that area, but it’s such a rural stretch that I had to ask who was coming all that way for such a niche experience. Godzilla-palooza? A Romero Dead fest? Bite Night (Jaws and Jurassic Park)? Then again, who wouldn’t come out for these? I didn’t actually attend a screening until this past summer, though, and while I had a great time, it was a packed house and I didn’t get to venture out to the concession stands or see too much of the area. Since then, I’ve mostly just sent you and Patrick the lineups so we can fan out about them. I still get really excited to see what they’re screening every time I drive by, though, and it’s probably only due to the late start times (around dusk, which can be as late as 9 PM in the summer) that I haven’t attended more.
Adam, what stood out to you about At the Drive-In, and what makes a good movie theater documentary, in general?
Wet Hot American Summer-ish than The Rep or Out of Print. The doc is set for a finite amount of time (i.e. summer versus being open the entire year) which makes everything feel poignant and the theater is mostly successful, which lends to a refreshingly fun tone. By contrast, the theater in The Rep was always struggling and the stress of the employees spilled over into the movie in a palpable way. I love that most of the employees at The Mahoning are working there as a labor of love. It’s like the record store in High Fidelity. They just started showing up every day. And guess what? I don’t blame them. It looks like a great place to hang out.
1) What was your favorite moment in the documentary?
2) Did you have a favorite person in the film?
3) Should I get every person who works there to sign my DVD when I visit with you next month? Or should I play it cool and pretend I’ve never seen the documentary?
4) Is it time for us to make an F This Movie! documentary? I think it is. I’m pretty sure Erich would do the score. The only stopping us is us and probably Patrick.
Rob: I think my favorite moment was when Jeff talks about the night only a few cars showed up for a screening and he decided to go ahead with it, anyway. He says something along the lines of, “We don’t know how far these people came. We advertised a show and we’re not going to go with it because not enough people are here? That’s nonsense. You run it!” We then learn that the $30 in revenue won’t even come close to covering the electricity costs to run the movies that night. But who cares? Jeff doesn’t. Could you imagine being one of those few people? You’d be a repeat customer, for sure.
Adam: My favorite part of that moment is he’s talking about a double feature of Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2. When they showed the marquee I literally gasped in my living room.
Rob: My favorite character is probably Chef Corey, a friend of Matt’s who volunteers behind the concession stand each weekend. He seems like a good time guy. Wild card type. He’s got that laid-back energy you need in an operation like this. I especially liked him in all the bits showing the guys sleeping in the back room all weekend (because driving home each night is cost and time prohibitive). It gives the whole thing even more of that summer camp vibe that you mentioned.
Forget the DVD. I’m going to find you a poster to bring along. And what would the FTM doc be about? Would it follow us for a year and culminate in F This Movie Fest? Seems like a natural choice. The big second act build-up could be Patrick picking the lineup.
Adam: Maybe the FTM doc could culminate in our 1,000th episode?? This ensures that Patrick keeps the site running for another nine years. I should probably text him about this.
Kidding aside, I’m super jealous you have this drive-in nearby. Despite my movie fandom, the drive-in sadly hasn’t been a staple of my moviegoing. I’ve only been to a drive-in once and that was for a double feature of Clear and Present Danger and The Mask. I enjoyed the experience, but I remember being stressed out because I didn’t know drive-in protocol. I’m really looking forward to going to The Mahoning next month for Last Action Hero and Demolition Man. Movies like At the Drive-In are good for my movie soul. It makes me want to actively give back somehow to the moviegoing experience in some way, shape or form. I suppose we’re doing that here at F This Movie! but I dunno...I kind of want to do more, too.
Adam: We’d be remiss not to mention the filmmaker by name: Alexander Monelli. There’s a title card in the film that says The Mahoning is one of 330 remaining drive-ins left in the United States. Based on the strength of this documentary, I want Alexander Monelli to make a doc on each of them. I enjoyed At the Drive-In so much I went to his website (www.monellifilms.com) and found a really neat 10-minute documentary there called “Video Store Millionaire” that’s worth checking out. It’s about a family-run video store that outlasted Blockbuster Video as they prepare for their final days of operation. It’s an inspiring and bittersweet David vs. Goliath story.
Rob: I’ll check it out! Anything else you want to say about At the Drive-In? This is a big Mark Ahn for me.
Adam: Big Mark Ahn for me too. This is my favorite new-to-me movie I’ve seen in 2019. I hope people seek it out. It’s pretty widely available on disc and streaming via the usual spots like Amazon, iTunes, Xbox etc. What are we talking about next week?
Rob: We’ll be talking about our favorite April discoveries. Until next time…
Adam: These seats are reserved.