LESSON #1: YOU CAN’T BEAT PARKED CARS WHEN IT COMES TO SOCIAL DISTANCING— The late spring calendar turning to May means the best window of pleasant outdoor weather months are coming to North America. With that, the 330 or so surviving drive-in movie theaters in the U.S. are approaching a rather rare season opener where they are quite incredibly the only movie theaters open. What peaked with over 4,000 locations in the 1950s had been dying a slow death of budget issues, technology hurdles, amenity shortfalls, and the constriction of urban/suburban sprawl. Now, instead of a real-life equivalent to the forgotten Radiator Springs from Cars, their spread-out and safe designs are the social-distancing lifeboats bringing cinematic joy to the masses after months of closure. Here in my neck of the woods of Chicagoland, the McHenry Outdoor Theater, part of Golden Age Cinemas, opened this past weekend. Please let this be the beginning of a comeback of a welcome novelty (go ahead and add car-hop drive-in restaurants too)! Come to think of it, I cannot think of a better re-purposing of defunct large urban/suburban spaces (like all of those dead shopping malls and department stores) than if a worthy investor can paint a few parking stalls, put up a big-ass screen, and throw-in a few concession stands.
LESSON #2: IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT’S GOING TO BE PLAYING— What a beautiful sight that video is! The best part is it doesn’t even matter what’s playing. As you saw, the re-opened McHenry Outdoor Theater playing a throwback double-bill of The Flintstones and Jurassic Park. The groundswell of trafficked pilgrimage looked like the final scene in Field of Dreams. People will come and I hope studios see that. They don’t have to swing for the fences with huge release. The anticipation is already there and the floods will come. Whoever and whatever is first is going to rake. Along those lines, Christopher Nolan doesn’t have to expend himself to be the savior of saviors with Tenet. I’ll always applaud the guy as a huge proponent of traditional film and theaters, but just a wee bit of his semi-greedy ego is showing to the guy that revives cinema. I love you Chris, but let’s see a team effort.
LESSON #3: IF THINGS ARE GETTING A LITTLE WEIRD AT HOME, EMBRACE IT— Until an IMAX spectacle can save us all, we are still stuck at home in our third month of widespread stay-at-home orders. There’s a chance some queues are drying up and the cabin fever is making folks a little weird. I say roll with it. Get eclectic with your home viewing. Even somethings squeaky like Disney+ can help. It was click bait, but I got a charge out of this Collider article of “The Weirdest Movies on Disney Plus.” It’s actually a pretty deep dive into their live-action properties with some kitschy picks. Check them out and refill the watchlist.
DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication. As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society. As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over two years, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts. Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work. (#132)