Drive-in Memories, Part 1: Going Attractions (2013) + Hot Docs & TJFF update

April 9, 2015 | By



Well, it’s the first week of April and supposedly the first of double-digit temperatures are on the way – like, today, albeit with more rainfall. I’m very much looking forward to not wearing the heavy coat + hat + gloves + scarf because it is spring, after all. That isn’t to say a snowstorm is impossible, but Toronto’s been walloped by dry cold this winter, so I don’t see Old Man Winter (the prick) going for one more dusting.

The local subway station was sufficiently spooked by this past weekend’s forecast that they salted the parking lot. As of last as Tuesday, chunks of salt still cracked under one’s boots / shoes. I suspect that’s all dissolved, and is now mixing with the groundwater. (I think plants like salt with their nutrients like we do on potato chips, but I might be wrong.)

Last week’s April Fool’s shock did get resolved, so that’s now been put to bed, but lesson learned on trusting the postal service; the solution was, apparently simple, but I’m glad it’s over.

Moving on.

For the last few years I’ve covered films at Hot Docs and the Toronto Jewish Film Festival, but this year I’ll have to skip both so I can finish my own documentary, BSV 1172, on local video store Bay Street Video, which has to be done / submission-ready by May 1st. I’ll have more info and maybe some stills later, but trust me, missing the great docs this year will be torture. I think I covered about 30+ last year, and wanted to crack 40 this time, but that’ll have to be next year.

Now then.

Just posted is a review of April Wright’s really fun documentary Going Attractions: The Definitive Story of the American Drive-in Movie (2013), which can also apply to Canadian venues. I’ve two drive-in memories: one directly experienced, the other from (literally) the sidelines when I was a kid. I’ll save those anecdotes when I post a follow-up of the two films I saw at the long-gone drive-in by Esna Park Drive, which eventually became an industrial park for assorted small manufacturing businesses.

That drive-in existed for a while after my one-time visit (likely around 1977-ish), but its fate wasn’t different from those within Wright’s rather epic documentary: as urban sprawl reached farther outward, gobbling up prime farmland for businesses, the local drive-ins eventually succumbed to pressure, high taxes, and escalating land values, and went poof! (Or in other cases, the facilities were abandoned, like this eerie site in Peterborough, the Mustang Drive-In, photographed by Jay Callaghan.)

As I mentioned near the end of my review of Going Attractions (which is available digitally, but comes with special features on DVD), there are some striking similarities between physical video stores and physical drive-ins: the journey to the actual place of distribution, the social aspect with like-minded patrons spanning fans to families, snack food, and the physicality of the environment versus selecting viewing options by remote from a streaming service.

There are pros & cons to all three, but like video stores, I appreciate the struggle that drive-in owners face from citizens often surprised that yes, they still exist.

A colleague recounted a visit to a drive-in he made a few years ago that was also the main locale for a planned birthday party: Kingston Family Funworld. If you check out their website, it reads like a throwback and update to the classic family amusement experience original drive-ins offered, with rides, games, and movies part of a long afternoon / evening package.



Mark R. Hasan, Editor

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