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

There was once a time in America when the family automobile became so ubiquitous in daily life that a hand full of creative entrepreneurs thought up a whole series of business models that focused on activities that could be done in the car.

People loved their cars, and still do. The popularity of “American Car Culture” spawned a cinematic bastard that created a culture all of it’s own. Going Attractions recounts this cultural phenomenon as well as the detailed history of drive-in theaters.

Families weren’t limited to the Sunday afternoon drive anymore. They could go to a drive-in restaurant and eat in your car. Then head to the drive-in theater and watch a double bill in the comfort, and relative privacy, of your auto.

In the late 1950’s there were 5,000 drive-in theaters in the United States. The number of drive-ins exceeded the number of traditional movie theaters.

Not only were drive-ins popular, but they effected the way the film industry functioned. Hundreds of films were made with the sole purpose of being shown at the drive-in. Some of these film are now thought of as classics, by filmmakers who got their start in, or made a name for themselves by making these films. “Who” you ask? Roger Corman, Herschell Gordon Lewis, Joe Dante, Francis Ford Coppola and John Sayles to name a few. Most films from American Pictures International were made with the drive-in in mind.

The drive-in has existed for over 60 years and it’s popularity and trends reflect the times in which they existed in some very interesting ways. For instance, dive-ins experienced a lull in the 70’s during the oil embargo which spiked gas prices everywhere. As a result of this, people began to drive less and started purchasing smaller, more fuel efficient cars. People were often deterred from visiting their near by drive-in because these newer, smaller cars weren’t comfortable enough to sit in for the duration of two feature films. The history of the drive-in is a bit of an anthropological record of American culture.

Going Attractions is so informative and so in depth, I’m not even sure what to mention. There is just SO MUCH!
  • The invention of the drive-in & growth in popularity.
  • The teen experience, sneaking friends in the trunk, “getting it on” in the car & the concession stand.
  • Competing theaters, gimmicks & b-movies.
  • Legal issues, the effects of television programming & the sprawling boom of shopping malls housing cineplexs.
  • Waning popularity, drugs, gangs, porn & Wal-Mart.
  • The “death” of the drive-in and it’s slow and loving resurrection.

There is something about the drive-in that really gets to me. I, personally, have only had the opportunity to visit the drive-in a handful of times. But when I think back to how much the experience has positively influenced America, it makes me happy to know that they still exist.

Knowing this must make others happy too, because a trend has begun. People, young and old, have begun to restore drive-ins, as well as building new ones, all over the country. Some even host drive-ins using huge inflatable screens for temporary use. I hope this trend burns bright.

Check out the Drive-In Film Festival & Project Drive-In

Going Attractions is a wonderfully informative piece of nostalgia that I highly recommend to people for any age. Especially if you are too young to have payed a visit to a drive-in. For more info about Going Attractions, check out GoingAttractions.com.


★ ★ ★ ★