Monday, June 23, 2008


As you probably already know by now, this summer marks the 75th anniversary of the unveiling of the first drive-in movie theater in Camden, New Jersey back in 1933. The drive-in as a cultural icon, center of a unique universe of cinematic history, and a beaten and bruised but ultimately resilient alternative to skyrocketing entertainment costs for the economically beleaguered American family has certainly not gone uncelebrated on this site. But now I’ve talked some pretty big batters into joining the fun. Published today on and promoted at Green Cine Daily, the hub for Web-based and traditional print film writing which is "joined at the hip" with the mother site, is my contribution to their ongoing series of exhaustive and entertaining primers, entitled The Drive-in: It’s Alive! It’s one part personal remembrance, three parts history-- of drive-ins, American International Pictures, and 13 notable drive-in directors—- and it’s even got a keen guide to movies that features scenes that take place at drive-in movies. (My wife reminded me too late of one I left off the list-- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.) If I’ve done my job, the primer should be a fun read for anyone who remembers the heyday of the drive-in, anyone who loves frequenting the few remaining “ozoners” here in Southern California and throughout the country (there’s about 400 left in the U.S.) and even for those who have never been to one (yet). Many thanks go to Craig Phillips and David Hudson for asking me to contribute to their wonderful site. I hope you go there soon, read the piece, and let me know what you think!


Anonymous said...

Great, great Piece. I'm personally a bit mixed on these movies. There defiantly seem to be a trend (is it a trend anymore? It's been going on for a while) which seeks to not only redeem "trash" but to proclaim it the work of genius. Often it seems unearned to me (I'm no fan of Cohen for example) and in other cases it is (Corman is brilliant). It's cool to find the ocassional diamond in the rough, but I've met people who seem to think of these movies as the pinnacle of Western civilization, in movies that I can't see anything in.

I'm a bit of a nut about directors, so I loved your profiles. Always love learning about new ones (even if they aren't particularly...ahem...good) and get a feel for them.

Okay, I've been rambling. It's a really great work, perfect primer.

Brian Darr said...

Love the piece, as I already stated at GreenCine. Makes me want to road-trip to the city with the nearest drive-in. Instead, I might just watch Blue Thunder in 70mm when it plays the Castro in a week. (Never seen it before- is it worth seeing, beyond the drive-in connection?)

Anonymous said...

Small point: AIP didn't distribute WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS (though AIP's TV arm may have later handled the movie's television syndication). The Toho/Henry G. Saperstein (UPA) production was theatrically released by Maron Films. [I saw this at the Northside Drive-In in Lansing, Michigan in August of 1970.]

Also, why is there a graphic for Steckler's INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES adjacent to the discussion of Ted V. Mikels? This tends to suggest that Mikels made the picture.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Krauthammer: I've found that the post-Tarantino perspective on a lot of these movies is just what you say-- there's not nearly as much critical evaluation going on as enthusiastic embracing of every element of drive-in schlock in the name of nostalgia or irony or whatever. So I had a lot of fun looking over the directors and choosing which ones I would list based not only on quality but influence and their status as representative of a certain kind of film that was prevalent during the drive-in heyday. I'm really glad you enjoyed the piece!

Brian: Your comment on Green Cine about going to the drive-in to see Marguerite Duras made me think of a couple of things. Years ago down here in Los Angeles there was a move afoot by a couple of rich investors to reopen the Studio Drive-in in Culver City (the one featured in Pee-wee's Big Adventure) as an art house drive-in. Now, I'm sure what they had in mind, and the way it would have eventually went even if they didn't, assuming that such a venture could have ever survived, was a drive-in that catered to independents and middlebrow fare from the likes of Miramax and such. But under any guise it never materialized. I wonder if, in addition tot he financial trepidation, there was any worry over how easy it'd be to read English subtitles on a drive-in screen. (The new Technalight illumination systems featured in the drive-ins down here have rendered that worry a moot point.) You also made me think of how funny it'd be to see Duras' The Truck at a drive-in, and to scan the crowd and see the shock and/or confusion registered on the faces of those expecting something along the lines of White Line Fever or Convoy!

As for Blue Thunder, if you have a chance to see it in 70mm at the Castro, go for it! The movie itself is just so-so, but it's interesting how prescient it was about police surveillance techniques. And the drive-in sequence is cool. We looked at it frame-by-frame here at the office one afternoon-- our office is directly across from where the old Pickwick used to stand, so it was an interesting glimpse at the way this Burbank neighborhood used to look before it got plowed over and uber-developed.

Griff: Sorry about the misinformation about War of the Gargantuas. I double checked and you are absolutely right. As for the ad for Incredibly Strange Creatures, I'm not sure about that. I will inquire with the person who chose the pictures and see if there might be a pic for The Corpse Grinders that could be substituted there. Thanks for checking in!

Anonymous said...


Those investors you mention that wanted to reopen the old studio drive-in, were those the same guys that had reportedly stated that they would have the first drive-in with true surround sound built into the theater grounds?