Things which dreams are made Of

Joy Drive In

Joy Drive Iin

I suppose arriving at this Drive In doesn’t look too special, but to go back there on a hot July 1955 day a fan would likely pay any cost.   Yet in the fashion of what makes budding youth so dear, something passed in a single day which no price would ever have the power to return.

Co-owner of the Joy Drive -In John Cobb saw a certain act while attending a regular venue motivating him enough to see if he could use it to boost his own business.  After some discussion and for $25 a show, he was able to book a weekend programming draw for 2 nights.  In anticipation for the promotion, he borrowed a flatbed truck from a local feed store using it as a makeshift stage right there next to the snack bar.

Snack bar

Snack bar

And so set the course for the first evening.  If you didn’t like the “the Blue Moon Boys” then you still could look forward to a memorable film such as Murder is my Beat.  But I doubt a single person complained.  Unless that is you planned on attending the second night, which never happened.  The evening snatched away one of its own and to see that star there again would be only on the silver screen.

Slappin' that Bass

Slappin’ that Bass

Train arrived ..

Train arrived ..

Peggy Cheshire, the managers niece.

Peggy Cheshire, the managers niece.

At managers house

At managers house

Drive In Theatre Patron

Drive In Theatre Patron

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The whole story and source for much of this information and photos can be found at http://scottymoore.net/minden.html

 

 

What year again?

Over 4,000 Drive-Ins now take advertising.

Source unknown for now

Source unknown for now

Almost 159 million Americans went to the Drive-In Theatres last August.
Drive In audiences reached 57 million in the best week.

Audience characteristics have changed since the early days of the Drive In Theatres. It’s a family trade now. Almost half of all families in the U.S. “drive-in” during a recent six-month period.

Drive-In audiences are a cream market… have better than average jobs, incomes, educations. They own more cars, homes, major appliances, and so on.

Because of all this, some advertisers find Drive-In movies are a most effective national advertising medium.

For 25 years, J. Walter Thompson Company has been theatre screen advertising for clients, not only in the U.S.A., but around the world. We are indeed, the leader in this field.

If you are interested in the special opportunities Drive-In audiences, or theatre audiences as a whole, offer to many advertisers, we shall be happy to discuss them with you.

Special Feature

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If the special feature is starting to look like the Pacific Drive In Theatre hour there’s good reason….

Variety on hold

Variety in need of repair

So tonight ahead of schedule, we have the multi-faceted Ira Cook.  Talent talent talent- it always amazes when  people like Ira hold it ace high.  Hailing from Duluth MN, he studied at Stanford, graduating with a medical degree.  Mr. Cook takes a draw from the deck and decides to move to Los Angeles. There he starts at KMTR as a record librarian and part time announcer.  He served his country when WWII called collect, fighting in the Battle of the Bulge also serving as an Armed Forces Radio announcer, later again into the 1960s.  Because of his interest in broadcasting, he got back into commercial radio right after the war.  1949 began a long 16 year career at KMPC which took him through the heady days of the 1950’s music era.

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In 1957 when the DJ pay for play scandal erupted Ira made the following comment, “It’s safer than stealing, more legal than gambling, easier than loafing, and it beats working!”  Although a great comment Ira’s actions are that of a working man.  He was a big promoter of Hawaiian music and brought Don Ho over to the mainland USA.

Ira Ho

Ira Ho

He also was doing a show called “Lunch with the Stars”, and wrote a book called “Cook with the Stars”.  He composed music and co-wrote songs.  As an actor he had bits in movies and on television shows.

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Ira’s statement and reason for retirement in the 1980s “The music really turned bad” is classic.  Let’s go further back to check the virtues of this March 23 to April 5th 1955 lyrical lineup, another Pacific Drive In Theatre pre show and intermission recording.

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shiny

 

Drive In Madness!

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If you have a nostalgic eye on the 80’s, here’s a double jeopardy.   Ozoners were freshly declining at an exponential rate, and this 1987 video cassette contemplates what will become of the “only” 1000 remaining drive ins, how the VCR would soon likely change that number to zero.

Directed by Tim Ferrante on a shoe string budget (www.timferrante.com/drive-inmadness.php)  it includes great recollections of 1960s and 70s B pictures played against a balance of 1980s movie magic.  Yet  viewed today it reveals how those eras were not so far removed  after all.

The film includes James Karen, Linnea Quigley, Russell  Streiner,  John Russo,  Samuel M. Sherman, Bobbie Bresee, ( bringing up Mausoleum and the good old drive in days of a whopping 4 years earlier.  Not recommended is her drive in etiquette) Forrest Ackerman, George Romero, and Tom Savini, all telling tales geared towards exploitation, skin, and horror flicks.  Which means quite a bit of blood, gore, and R ratings all around for those who wish not attend.

Tis’ The Season

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Yes indeed it’s that time of year again folks, the yearly intermission between November and December.   Now is the season of Cool Treats (like icy roads & frost bit nose) and Hot Eats ( turkey, tacos , & Tabasco slaws ).  Not much else for a northern drive in fan to do but go with holiday tradition.

Somewhere over the snowbank other Drive Ins  keep the pictures rolling.  Warm festive times bring a special brand of promotion there, seasonably set to motivate would be patrons away from  left overs.

Filmack was, still is, a pro at bringing holiday greetings to the big screen and help  exhibitors make ends meet in those lean months.  Let’s take a sampling from the 1960 November and December issues of Filmacks trade magazine, “Inspiration” the messenger of good cheer, as it encourages us to celebrate the season together.

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Don’t give up Mr. Drive In, help is on the way!

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Chase those fall blues away, the mood is right and your about to get into it.  Good fun promotional ideas.

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Next no joking from me here.  Blessed to be an American and I’m thankful.

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More on the drive in promotion page.  Ladies and Gentlemen if you click on the pic you’ll see the text much clearer.  The ole’ damaged speaker trailer still a hot item.

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Have you thought about “Screen Appeal” lately?  4 out of 5 of the trailing leaders come up short on screen appeal.  By the way, the Inspiration is peppered with good clean jokes throughout the magazine.

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Before going on to the next picture, I remember thinking Clint Eastwood movies were out of place for the Holidays.  Above  Psycho is readily promoted with holiday cheer way back in 1960.  Mr. Dzikowski makes a good historical case for this in his first periodical “American Drive In Theater Roadside Journal” a great read on Amazon.

OK, coming up next…

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Decembers issue is here!

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Filmack is a longstanding family business.  In November’s issue Mr. Irving Mack, affectionately known as just Mack, had said goodbye in a retirement communique.  Joe Mack and his brothers have taken the reigns and here is a notice of some of the well wishes and sad goodbyes received from people who were more than just customers.

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Merchant sponsored trailers.  Nice idea and art concept.

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Chingle Bells a ringin …  …  safety pays

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And the rate schedule.

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The frozen chosen here in the Northland would like to wish all our friends Happy Holidays.   in this case with an old marquee, 2 much snow, and a 20 foot drop~

 

I’ve had It

OK, I know it’s hard. Very very hard to imagine spring right now. This good ole song really helps  pull out that elation as when you cleared the box office window to see who’s in the lot.  Laid back and rolling through the rows to find that place there next to your friends, oh and girls.  Mise as well grab a burger for me too. Good luck finding our cars (moved to the back) once you disappear into the snack bar! Good times.

Time to Stretch and Fetch

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To my knowledge this pile of film and paper is all that’s left to the drive in of my youth.   Just before it was bulldozed into history I stopped in to find a collapsing vandalized building with its contents strewn all over.  Running out of the bathroom were  crinkled strips of film which I had a hunch but dreaded to find in such condition, the snack bar footage.  It was.  Tangled, busted, weather worn, you name and behold it, the first treasure  of the leprechauns rainbow.

By the mid 1980’s intermission footage had passed into history. Without the internet, reproduction sources or any  fan network, the rejected abused  and forgotten group of cells was  the only connection to something  readily apparent never to happen again.

Treasure two is a hand typed flyer  by the author Terrance Wharton, discovered  13 years ago when crossing  paths with Derrick of Drive In Film. It was a good read and the memories of what he wrote were still very fresh then.  I nodded, smiled and took that flyer  home to keep with the old crinkly footage.  When reading it again the other day, I realized what sort of feelings these old promotions once elicited, and how different this footage is viewed now.

Like many things today,  intermission shorts have never had it so good.  Heck even Filmack is re-releasing some  of their own classics, and the great company of Screen Attractions is creating a new stable of shorts and restoring to perfection old offerings.   CDs from  sources such as Drive In Film or Something Weird has hours of clips that you can play on your own TV or makeshift home drive in.

YouTube is an endless source of quick and hazy  snack bar video, that even now I can go and find something that  I’ve never seen before.

In fact so prevalent and varied are the offerings today,   some drive in fans may have forgotten just what made those films so special to begin with. Taken for granted they could  be  again put  on a shelf  no higher than those once saved  from the wet cement  floor.

With all credit given to Terrance is his essay on what those masterful and independent creations meant to us, a post generation of drive in patrons.  Printed many years ago, the black and white photos and text appear as they did in the flyer for authenticity.

 

AA

Show Starts In Ten Minutes

By Terrance Jennings Wharton

There was a time when an evening spent at the local drive-in theatre always guaranteed the viewing of at least one unique and entertaining film:  the “Come Visit Our Modern Concession Stand…” production that both accompanied and defined the intermission between features.

Some years ago a drive-in owner was recounting (for the author’s benefit) the all-time highest grossing motion pictures at his three theatres (THE TEN COMMANDMENTS and THE GODFATHER were the top two).  When I asked if that included the snackbar countdown his face broke into a broad smile.  “Over the years that’d have to rank up there with any of them!  I’ve never thought about it like that –  all those kids!  That’s also how we were able to get away with admitting the whole carload on a flat admission…”

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In 1952 Armour & Co. introduced the initial live-action refreshment stand advertisement, or “trailer”.  While animated segments of the “Come On Out To The Lobby…” ilk had existed for years, audiences had never been confronted with “actual” images of patrons enjoying handy snackbar treats.  Presented free of charge to nearly 600 drive-ins, this one-minute short (featuring a jingle by Bing Crosby’s Starlighters) heralded that it was time for intermission – and with it – a refreshing drink, box of popcorn, and delicious Armour frank: “…if drinks are what you want – we got’em –hot or cold, just holler; all drinks taste good with Armour franks – you bet your bottom dollar; if your taste for popcorn’s set – we have it hot and waiting; for an extra treat just buy a bag – it’s fun to eat when dating…

From drive-ins everywhere reports of dramatically inflated concession sales began pulling up at Armour’s Chicago offices.  A Missouri ozoner experienced a 25% increase in hotdog sales the very first night the trailer was shown, and total snackbar receipts for the season were 30% higher than those from the previous year.  When the new clip debuted at the Big Sandy Drive-In, in Portland, OR, four-times the normal amount of wieners were sold, and an Armour representative (attending the theatre with his family) hurriedly placed an ‘emergency” order for an additional 72 lb. of the franks.

Several hundred similar responses prompted Armour to release eight new trailers for the 1953 season.  While the true suggestive/metaphoric potential of the screen-size frankfurter was yet to be fully realized (e.g., the animated “Circus Of Performing Treats” production, from Filmack Studios, wherein the domineering bun coerces the subservient hotdog to turn a series of obedient flip-flops before being “rewarded” by its suddenly permissive partner), Armour had conclusively struck a responsive chord and served to open the flood-gates for “live-action” snack-bar footage of varying depth, duration and quality (in the trade vernacular, all footage, aside from animation, was generally described as live action): from limpid, lackluster stills of inedible, would-be food, on up to a far more ambitious ( even moderately obsessive and overblown considering their limited scope) product layouts utilizing excessive stop-motion razzle-dazzle and post production optical-printing, culminating in pop-up/overlapping/kaleidoscopic imagery quite unlike anything else.  (The Alexander Film Co. dreamed-up various curiously inspired examples of the latter variety).

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Most (however, not all) intermission reels were structured around a “clock-shell”: comprised of a 20-30 second introduction, or “header”; 10 second inserts counting down each minute; and a 10 second closing, or “tag”; this basic framework amounted to approximately 2 minutes of actual screen time.  The remaining 5-10 minutes (many “10 Minute” shows were striking exercises in temporal compression/expansion) were nothing less than a blank canvas to the local drive-in projectionist (that inadvertent/invariable master of cinema-montage) whose abrupt, sledgehammer method of jump-cutting and juxtaposing footage (from myriad of sources) unfailingly produced an amazingly collage-like body of work – worthy of repeated viewing (as in every visit to the drive-in).

Indeed, in an era prior to mass MTV retinal overload there were no other cinematic shorts available for widespread public viewing that were as crazily mixed-up as the local snackbar assemblage: a crude-yet-complex conglomeration enriched by virtue of startling shifts in content; equally head-shaking jumps from color to b&w and back; rhythmically jarring (and frequently “frame” altering) secondary cement and/or tape splices (earmarking varying degrees of missing footage); brutal emulsion scratches, grimy accumulations; shredded sprocket holes; moisture damage (read: mildew) physically stretched stock; and a signature washed-out carbon-arc luminosity bordering on the ethereal… all told, a gradual evolution nurtured by countless rushes through a blinding, many-toothed gauntlet at 90 feet-per-minute.

The following was only a partial inventory of the drive-in projectionist’s considerable bag-of-tricks: persistent clock shells, produced primarily by Filmack, Alexander, and National Screen; narrated live-action food clips, often with disembodied human hands performing sundry task; goofy animated Leprechauns, Martians, Professors, and Sentries (from National Screen Service); near hypnotic/escapist animated interludes unwinding to approximately sedate musical scores; toe-tapping barbecue pitches from Castleberry’s, Smithfield, (most often tinted green); Drizzle Gard Rain Visor ads; Butter Cup Popcorn sing-a-longs; simple minded color slides of kittens, puppies, birds, and flowers set to vapid easy-listening arrangements (originally included in a self-contained countdown clock, and often recut by projectionists); single sentence, narrated stills (e.g., “Sizzling Hotdogs Bursting With Juicy Goodness…”) that led sharp punctuation to the proceedings when hitting the screen; Neil Armstrong up on the Moon; detailed Bernz-O-Matic in-car heater instructions; local merchant spots; catchy soft drink commercials for national and regional bottlers; United States Armed Forces recruiting promotions; dreary public service announcements; vast vistas of farm crops, with machinery harvesting and patriotic strains swelling from the in –car metal speakers; and, of course, the “… Please Return The Speaker Before You Leave The Theatre… AND DON’T EVER LET US CATCH YOU STEALING ONE…” reminder/admonishment.

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Beyond the above-mentioned arbitrary editing and subsequent resplicing of said footage, the very image itself was often drastically distorted via projection through an anamorphic lens, a common practice when both features on the bill were in widescreen format (it was understandably convenient to leave the relatively cumbersome optics in place, rather than switch to the “flat” lens for a mere 10 minutes).  Static, screen-filling views of sandwiches, popcorn boxes, and drink cups (assuredly minimalistic and absurd-looking when enlarged to such monolithic proportions) became even more strangely stylized and surreal when they were amazingly stretched-way-out horizontally (like a magnified vision from some futuristic industrial designer’s mental sketchpad), with form warping content to plasticized perfection.

Some years back, a personal viewing of the rapid-fire, found footage short films of Bruce Conner (A MOVIE, AMERICA IS WAITING) brought to mind the mishmash nature of the drive-in snackbar film, where contextual fusing of obliquely incongruous subject matter could sometimes engender newfound meaning.  A memorable intermission countdown from the Skyview Cruise-In Lancaster, OH (that played intact through the 1989 season), included a cutaway from the animated “Ten Little Indians” clock-shell (produced by the Alexander Film Co.) to a title card proclaiming, “This Is YOUR Land, AMERICA!  Demonstrate Your FAITH In It In Your EVERY Action…” then abruptly cut back to the cartoon Indians (at once an unintentional subversion of content and prime example of “1 Minute” in “intermission time” compacted to barely 20 seconds).

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Eventually taken for granted by the majority of patrons (existing as little more than ambient cinematic wallpaper), these odd mini-wonders provided for more discriminating movie-goers that perfectly twisted transition between screenings of such eccentric fare as THE CORPSE GRINDERS and THE UNDERTAKER AND HIS PALS.  (Author’s note:  at a memorable 10th anniversary booking of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, at the E. Main Drive-In, in Columbus, OH, a smattering of cheers and groans alike could be heard from several cars when the local Temp-Taste Barbeque commercial [starring Ohio Steak & Barbecue’s own Dan Enderle] appeared on the screen).

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Now that the entire economic nature of film production/distribution has changed irrevocably and no more offbeat, independent “drive-in” features are being released theatrically, the last of the surviving intermission countdown reels are exceedingly rare and especially welcome movie going experience (too often flanked by comparatively unimaginative and insignificant corporate Hollywood reoccurrences…).  To presently watch one of these cultural time capsules count off the minutes is to experience time quite frozen.

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(The author extends heartfelt thanks to all of the drive-in owners, managers, and projectionists.  The Armour sales information is contained in the article “Franks Mean Sales” which originally appeared in the 1955-56 Theatre Catalog.)

The following is a partial list of film service companies who distributed and/or produced motion picture trailers of one manner, or another.

Alexander Film Co……………………………………. Colorado Springs, CO

Alpha Film Labs……………………………………….. Baltimore, MD

Ambuter Motion Picture Co.  …………………  Boston, MA

Clyde Anderson Film Co. ……………………….  Salt lake City, UT

Argo Film Production …………………………….. St. Louis, MO

Associated Film Exchange ……………………… Salt lake City, UT

A.H. Barber, Sr. ………………………………………. St Louis, MO

Barnett Film Services …………………………….. New Orleans, LA

Cine-Graphic Film Labs Inc. …………………… St Louis, MO

Cinema Concepts Theatre Service ……….. Atlanta, GA

Clark Service Inc. …………………………………. Buffalo, NY

Lewy Studios ………………………………………..  Baltimore, MD

Lippincott Pictures Inc. ………………………….. Philadelphia, PA

Master Motion Picture Co. …………………….. Boston, MA

Moondial Manufacturing Corp. ………………. Los Angeles, CA

Monarch Theatre Supply ………………………… Memphis, TN

Monmental Films Inc. …………………………….. Baltimore, MD

Motion Picture Advertising Service …………  New York, NY

Motion Picture Service Company ……………. San Francisco, CA

National Film Service ………………………………. New Orleans, LA

National Screen Service …………………………. New York, NY

National Theatre Supply Co. ………………….. Indianapolis, IN

Nationwide Pictures ……………………………. Dallas, TX

Oran Productions ……………………………….. St Louis, MO

Pacific Title & Art Studios …………………… Los Angeles, CA

Parrot Film Services ……………………………. De Moines, IA

Pictosound Productions …………………….. St Louis, MO

Premier Film & recording Corp. …………. St Louis, MO

Quality Film Labs ……………………………….. Baltimore, MD

M.B. Russell ……………………………………….. Salt Lake City, UT

Stansbury Photo Films ………………………. Baltimore, MD

Stark Films ………………………………………….  Baltimore, MD

Strickland Film Co. ……………..……………….. Atlanta, GA

Shelby Stork & Co. ……………..……………….. St Louis, MO

Simon Film Service ……………………….……… Detroit, MI

Sly Fox Films ………………………………………… Minneapolis, MN

Standard Screen Service ……………………… Los Angeles, CA

Technisonic Studios Inc. ………………………  St Louis, MO

Theatre Screen Advertising …………………. Denver, CO

Tri-State Theatre Service …………………….. Memphis, TN

Universal Images Ltd. ………………………….. Kansas City, MO

UTA Inc. …………………………………………………. Los Angeles, CA

Welgot Trailer Service …………………………… New York, NY

Wilding Picture Productions …………………. St Louis, MO