Drive-in: 90 years of outdoor cinema

The drive-in is an eternal boy: it turned 90 on May 15th and it’s still able to maintain its timeless charm over time.However, perhaps not everyone knows how the drive-in was born and what is the anecdote that led to its creation. We are in the United States and Richard Milton Hollingshead, in his early thirties, passionate about cinema, does not give up on his mother's weight problems, who has difficulty moving and sitting in the seats of the cinemas of the time.Thus, in 1932 he decided to rent some movies and project them in the garden, accommodating his mother in the front seat of the family car. He does it in the garden, with a sheet pulled between two trees used as a screen. Hence the spark: the following year, Hollingshead expanded the audience of this private show by creating some ad hoc differences in ground level in a square, ensuring that the height with respect to the screen and the inclination of the car give everyone the same view.The rest is history: what was once a small private screening becomes a screening for all cinema (and car) lovers spreading like wildfire throughout USA and sometimes even replicating itself in other parts of the world.You can go to the drive-in with your own car, parking in a strategic place for watching a movie, or by renting a car specifically on site (this happens especially in recent times). The COVID-19 pandemic has also revived this way of entertaining and for several weeks, in full lockdown, we thought about its redevelopment in order to solve the problem of the movie crisis and get people back to the cinema.And speaking of cinema: there are numerous movie all over the world that have paid homage to the world of the drive-in. Most of these have concentrated on describing the drive in as entertainment for very young people (see "Grease" or "The Outsiders", engaged in their first outings with their own car) but it is a world that has also captured a notable range of adults.Here are 7 movies that well restore the style of the time on the screen.
1.GREASE (1978)We all know the love story between Danny (John Travolta) and Sandy (Olivia Newton John): apparently a summer infatuation, but which becomes much more when school starts and, by a strange coincidence, Sandy enrolls in the same school of Danny, who will have to deal with his reputation as a womanizer.The movie is set in 1958, the golden age of drive-ins. And it is in a drive-in that a very important scene happens: Danny offers Sandy a ring as proof of his love. And immediately afterwards, once they embrace to watch the movie on the screen, Danny reaches out his hands, unleashing the ire of his beloved, who will get out of the car. By the way: the one driven by Danny is not just any car, but a 1950 Dodge Wayfarer roadster, flaming red (although apparently worn by time) and obviously convertible. A real vintage car produced in a very limited period of time (from 1949 to 1952), thus placing it among the real jewels of an era.
2. ACQUA E SAPONE (By Carlo Verdone, 1983)Again there is a girl named Sandy, played by Natasha Hovey. We don't know if it's a tribute to Grease, but even here at a certain point in the plot we find ourselves in a drive-in. And not just any drive-in: it is the famous Metro Drive-in in Casal Palocco, the first to open in Italy in 1957, which had a 540 m2 screen, the largest in Europe.Sandy and Rolando (played by Carlo Verdone, also director of the movie) are in this drive-in aboard an Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider, watching some frames from a movie starring the Yogi Bear. The most nostalgic looking at this scene will therefore be able to find great satisfaction in noticing so many elements that today are considered vintage, starting with the car that most of all marked the well-being of the second half of the Italian twentieth century.
3. POVERI MILIONARI (1959)“After all, I don't mind seeing the cinema in the car. The thing is, it's a movie I've seen before. Good deal!". The Casal Palocco Metro Drive-in also appears in this movie by Dino Risi with Maurizio Arena (author of the quote shown here).In a scene lasting a few minutes, the two couples of friends end up at the drive-in aboard a Fiat 1400 b, known for being the first FIAT car to adopt a load-bearing body instead of the traditional frame structure. This too is an icon of style and elegance, such as are no longer found today.
4. LA LEGGENDA DI AL, JOHN E JACK (2002)Many remember this movie by the trio Aldo, Giovanni and Giacomo as a "betrayal" compared to the first three. The plot is much more convoluted and refers to old American gangster movies. Therefore, among the many American elements present in the cinematic imagination, they could not fail to include the drive-in, where the movie begins.The three are watching Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo. Among the spectators (aboard a classic Cadillac) is a ruthless boss of the American mafia, Sam Genovese, played by actor Aldo Maccione. As Hitchcock's movie is about to end, Genovese, who has a man hostage ready to be killed, eats a chicken wing and risks death by suffocation, but is providentially helped by the man who was about to be killed. Al, commissioned by John, records the scene, but when the three of them, sitting in their Ford Edsel Pacer, have to listen to what is recorded, Al gets a strong electric shock and loses his memory.Here too, a car is being paid homage which in the collective imagination is a symbol of well-being after the Second World War: Edsel was a car brand belonging to the Ford group active from 1957 to 1960. A car brand that was positioned in terms of features and price between the Ford and the Mercury, which was decidedly more luxurious.
5. FOOTLOSE (1984)Another musical, this time inspired by some events that happened in the small rural community of Elmore City in Oklahoma. Set in a fictitious place, called Bomont, it tells the story of Ren (a very young Kevin Bacon) who is transferred from Chicago to this small town where rock'n roll and dancing have been banned.Among the scenes left in the memory, there is certainly that of the drive in, where boys and girls dance non-stop. Since several people are immortalized in the act of having fun, there are several cars that are the protagonists in these small frames: the Chevrolet Citation stands out among all, a car produced in the first half of the 80s. The first front-wheel drive Chevrolet model was produced and assembled right in Oklahoma City, hence most likely the use in this movie. But in the drive-in scene we can also notice: a Toyota Corona, a Beetle Typ 1 and a Toyota Celica, parked as a backdrop among the movements of young music rebels.
6. THE OUTSIDERS (1983)Matt Dillon, Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe, Tom Cruise. This movie, directed in 1983 by Francis Ford Coppola was a real springboard for many US celebrities. The story tells of the rivalry of two rival gangs: the Greasers (poor, living in the suburbs) and the Socials (rich and bourgeois). Many of the actors featured in this movie were in their early twenties and most likely unaware of the huge success that would open up to them a few years later.Here the drive-in scene is short but dotted with Chevrolets: from the historic El Camino to the Impala, passing through the Chevrolet Bel Air. Models that had their peak in the 60s and which constitute a real status quo of the American of that era, son of the economic boom and prosperity.
7. AMERICAN GRAFFITI (1973)This historic movie by George Lucas could not fail to be mentioned, where the drive-in is the meeting place for the protagonists. It also has a name: Mels drive in and there are young girls on rollers who deliver food for the spectators, which they will eat during the movie.Among these is Steve Bolander (played by Ron Howard, very young but already in the "Happy Days" period) but also Curt Henderson (Richard Dreyfuss) and the handsome John Milner (Paul Le Mat). The movie tells precisely their vicissitudes in the period, full of doubts and nostalgia, which goes from the end of school to the beginning of college. At Mel's it is possible to identify a wide range of cars: among these, as always, the various Chevrolets (Impala, Caprice, Bel Air) stand out. It is precisely a 1958 Chevrolet Impala driven in the movie by Steve Bolander and which is loaned to loser friend Terry Fields before leaving for college. The car was born in 1958 as a top-of-the-range version of the Chevrolet Bel Air, but became independent the following year. It is still produced today, but with the appearance of a modern Berlina.
Latest news