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Review: Going Attractions: The Definitive Story of the American Drive-In Movie

Ken Korman enjoys a new documentary about drive-in theaters



Few things inspire misty-eyed nostalgia among Americans of a certain age than the drive-in movie theater. Invented in Camden, New Jersey, in 1933 by entrepreneur Richard Hollingshead (who for years collected 2 cents per patron in royalties from those who adopted his idea) and peaking at 5,000 theaters nationwide in 1958, drive-ins came to symbolize post-war freedom and prosperity as well as the arrival of teen culture in the mid-1950s. Writer/director April Wright's low-budget documentary Going Attractions offers a fast-paced survey of drive-in history and the cultural forces that ultimately led to outdoor cinema's decline. The film doesn't go deep enough (and an insistent soundtrack featuring cheesy 1970s-style hard rock doesn't help matters), but even the basics of drive-in history prove entertaining enough to carry the film.

  Among the little-known blips in that history are fly-in drive-ins (the first of which had space for 500 cars and 25 small planes) and the short-lived Autoscope, which arranged private screens about the size of today's home flat-screens in a giant circle (one for each car). And who knew that drive-in's greatest threat was perhaps Daylight Savings Time? Drive-in proprietors fought the adoption of the practice — which would push drive-in start times as late as 10 p.m. and ruin all-important concession sales — but lost that battle in 1967. Wright visited 500 drive-ins (or their former sites) in 49 states over the course of seven years to make Going Attractions, and her perseverance bears fruit. Interview subjects including Hollingshead's heirs and the family that created those beloved animated snack-bar ads ("Let's all go to the lobby!") give the film historical value that will please academic researchers and nostalgia hounds.

Related Film

Going Attractions: The Definitive Story of the American Drive-in Movie

Director: April Wright

Producer: Brion Hambel, J. Tweel, April Wright and Donavon Thomas

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