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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Refurbishing the drive-in theater

    Andi Berlinarts columnist
    Andi Berlin
    arts columnist

    I was sitting at The Loft Cinema the other night, chomping on some movie nachos and watching an Oscar-nominated film about a paraplegic fashion editor who writes an entire novel by blinking his eye strategically, when I came up with a great idea.

    Or rather, the person sitting next to me, who was also enraptured with “”The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,”” came up with it and told me later, which inspired me to nobly take the idea for my own and write about it in a column.

    And here is the epiphany: Wouldn’t it be cool if the drive-in played art films?

    Although it might not bring in the hoards of restless “”Shrek III”” enthusiasts and overzealous mothers with zip-locked Twizzlers, it still has the opportunity to be a successful business venture. Despite the fact that most of the Loft’s money comes from outside donors, it’s still done pretty well for itself, all things considered. It brings in a steady stream of B-movie celebrities and independent filmmakers, it’s one of the only art house theaters in the country that is still open and playing decent movies (sorry, Mill Avenue Harkins Theatre) and it draws a respectfully sized crowd on weekends and special events.

    Couldn’t the stagnant drive-in stand to benefit from some of these ideas? If it just dedicated one screen to some of the exploitation and independent films that have been the basis of drive-in existence for over seven decades, it could surely draw people in through the kitsch factor alone.

    But there are a few problems that the De Anza Drive-In Theater will have to overcome. Namely, how to get hipsters to shlep over all the dirty hipsters without cars who dominate the Loft’s customer base. On North Alvernon Way and East 22nd Street, De Anza isn’t necessarily a quick bike ride away, and also you kind of need a car when you get there. Although there is no perfect solution for this, I was recently alerted to the fact that many drive-ins across the United States allow people to bring in their bicycles and have worked out a radio system they can use to hear the screen. A more pragmatic solution: Until they get cars, hipsters can just suck it up and offer more privileged friends half a cigarette to take them along.

    The second problem is that the drive-in must find a way to make the screen more visible. Last time I was there, unfortunately seeing Rob Zombie’s remake of “”Halloween,”” which was both thematically and visually dark as well, I couldn’t see the damn last half of the movie. The crazy monster boy with the scraggly blonde hair was running around and attempting to kill the guy from “”A Clockwork Orange,”” but all I could see was a pair of headlights washing the darkness out into a singular gray color. Since this affects every movie and not just art films, I suggest the increased presence of a drive-in security guard to boss people around and bully the light shiners into submission.

    There are a couple other problems – accepting debit cards and the general public’s ambivalence toward older movies – that might stall the progress of the idea. But the advantages would much outweigh the cons.

    Taking a look at De Anza’s selection this week, we see a myriad of forgettable pictures: “”Jumper”” (the Third Eye Blind song?), “”Fools Gold,”” “”The Spiderwick Chronicles,”” “”Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins”” and the tepid “”Meet the Spartans.”” Dedicating a screen to the great classics like “”Reefer Madness”” or “”Orgy of the Dead”” would at the least turn some heads.

    The fact that Tucson still has a drive-in, after decades of the artform’s stagnation and slow but imminent death, shows that this city cares about a valuable tradition. Why not give the fans a chance to experience a little of the nostalgia, the reverence of the older generation. Why not take the opportunity to expand your customer base to college students and movie historians from all over the country just by mixing it up a little? If that doesn’t seem like a good idea, you could at least play “”Grindhouse”” again. That movie was pretty good.

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