Imported view of an exported institution
In the late 1970s and 80s, video ( and ’ multiplex cinemas) killed the drive- in
Drive- In Movie Memories 8.30pm, ABC
DINOSAURS, dodos, drive- ins. Once almost as ubiquitous as Kilroy, the last- named are rapidly heading towards a similar extinction as their alliterative cousins.
Aficionados report that 24 drive- ins still stand in Australia of the more than 350 that blossomed in their heyday, but that ’ s a rosily optimistic count. The country ’ s oldest continually operating drive- in theatre at Sydney ’ s Bass Hill closed down two months ago, leaving only one other such operation in that city and one other in NSW. Two of the remaining three drive- ins in Victoria have been National Trust classified in an attempt to protect them, while Adelaide has just one theatre left, the Wallis Mainline at Gepps Cross. In the late 1970s and 80s, video
’ ( and multiplex cinemas) killed the drive- in, their comfort and technology features driving people away from hanging out outdoors in what had been a communal rite of passage.
Yet people of a certain age still look back wistfully to what they see as simpler, better times, when family entertainment involved packing blankets, pillows and their pyjama- clad children into the back of the car and parking in a paddock or hardtop lot to watch double- feature flicks on a big screen under the starry sky.
You could even lie back in the station wagon and watch while munching on mum ’ s sangers or chowing down on an exotic hamburger. For teenagers, it was the American way with an Aussie accent, and friends tell me they learned all they know about life, love and the universe at the drivein, and not necessarily from what they saw on the big screen there.
While the first drive- ins came to Australia in 1954, Americans had been enjoying them since 1923, when New Jersey businessman Richard Hollings- theatre as a petrol- buying head opened his first means of entertaining patrons at his garage.
I learned the above factoid from Drive- In Movie Memories , but not a huge amount else. Because like the garish posters that used to advertise drive- in features, this documentary promises much but delivers considerably less.
A cast of relatively inconsequential talking heads offer comments made pithy by speed- freak editing, interspersed with sparse ( if interesting) footage of drive- ins of the past cut by modishly sharp takes on ads and fads of the time.
It was made by slow- talking Americans ( drawling adds weight) for Americans about Americans. So why show it here? Instead of buying in this piece of made- on- the- cheap televisual flummery, the ABC would have been better served by rolling out its own look at the local history. It would have been twice as good in half the time. As it stands,
Drive- In Movie Memories ain ’ t memorable but it may appeal to nostalgia buffs. Of a certain age.
Poster from the golden age of drive- in movies