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Seven Hills

Boston-area exploration, travel notes, crafty things, and other Somervillainy.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Making Movies

Last summer Daniel wrote about the outdoor movies our neighbors were projecting off the back porch onto the cinderblock wall of the supermarket behind our building. I was reminded again a few weeks ago just how blissful it is to sit outdoors in the summertime watching a movie.

I don't know about you, but my summer is going by way too fast this year. A lot of June was rainy and kind of cold, so summer didn't even feel like it started until July (and I guess technically it doesn't, but you do often get a sultry June). And now it's suddenly half over! Trips to the beach, swimming afternoons, summer seafood-eating, farmer's market shopping - all these things have barely gotten underway, yet it feels like they're already drawing to a close.

It's the planning these things entail, like the trips to Cape Cod that involve a weekend expedition. I look at the calendar to see when we can fit in such-and-so, and there are only four true summer weekends left to work with.

But the other night when our neighbor fired up the projector and put in "Pirates of the Caribbean," I was able to relax and enjoy myself. Just to have a reason to sit outside and enjoy the warmth of the evening was pleasure enough, and I minded the movie's slow scenes less with the diversions of the sky overhead, a tepid glass of red wine, neighbors' voices drifting through the open windows, and moths occasionally swooping through the beam of light pointed at the wall. Summer was happening right then, not two weeks away for one day and two nights by the beach. And it felt that way for a whole 143 minutes.

I've never been to a real drive-in. It's always been something I've glimpsed from afar, fraught with longing. When I moved to San Francisco, flying in on a cheap red-eye flight from Chicago's Midway, I got a clear view of Woody from "Toy Story" vivid on a rectangle of screen somewhere on the San Francisco Bay.

Even more dreamlike, I remember a certain drive-in that was visible from the highway my family habitually took between Chicago and Michigan, the one fleeting (literal) bright spot on those summer evening drives of early childhood. It had closed down by the time I was old enough to even understand why you could see a movie screen from the highway, much less petition to stop in for the show.

And so I've felt lucky for this drive-in to pull up, as it were, in my own backyard, and for the reality of it to be every bit as sweet as I thought it would be.

Incidentally, a reporter for the Boston Globe is apparently a new neighbor on our block, and this weekend they ran a story about our little local movie nights. We were out of town for that one, but are immortalized forever as the referenced "upstairs neighbors."

The above image is the June 19, 1954, New Yorker cover, and it's by Arthur Getz.

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At 7/27/2006 8:10 PM, Blogger JessRedRose said...

I think you saw the old Burlingame drive-in from the air. I went sometime in 2000, I think, and was in one of maybe 3 cars there. Pretty sad. It had an incredible mid-century snack bar, I remember. I've always loved drive-ins, and watching movies outside, I wonder if anyone will try to bring this idea back?

Given how much people talk during movies in theaters these days, it seems like a great idea - you have your own little enclosed space to do whatever you like. Of course, drive-ins rely on car culture to keep them going and I can do with less of that. I think outdoor sit-down theaters are the way to go. It's so great you have one next door!

At 7/28/2006 11:17 AM, Blogger Chrissa said...

That must be the place. (I looked it up on Google Maps to double-check, which led my boyfriend, looking over my shoulder, to ask, "WHAT are you looking up in Burlingame?") I would love it if outdoor movies caught on in some way ... perhaps just more of the summer-series park screenings that some cities put on.

At 7/28/2006 3:17 PM, Blogger steph said...

yes, i've been to that snack bar (and drive-in) in burlingame, too. very surreal. especially since we saw x-men there, which is a movie i would not have seen otherwise to be sure. i'm more in favor of movies in parks for sure. drive-ins are just a little too retro for me i guess.

At 7/29/2006 8:17 PM, Blogger Brian P said...

I never went to the Burlingame drive-in, but passed it maybe a hundred times traveling to and from relatives' houses on the Peninsula. Instead, since it was close to home, my family went to the old Union City drive-in a lot when I was a kid. I believe it's where the big cineplex is now, which is just about the perfect summary of how movie-watching has changed in the last 20 years. Anyway, I loved the drive-in because we always brought our own fresh-popped popcorn in a big brown grocery bag that practically leaked butter on the bottom. The other great thing was that often we got to stay for a second feature, which usually meant a trip to the snack bar in between shows.

At 7/30/2006 8:46 PM, Blogger Chrissa said...

It is nice to know others have been to that drive-in, or at least witnessed its existence.

You are right, Stephanie - they are in their essence very retro. I always wondered whether being in the car would be too much of an obstruction. Do you get out and sit in folding chairs?

Brian - I love the big grocery bag of homemade popcorn with the butter grease on the bottom. Ooh, and a double feature - another thing I longed for but never experienced. That might be one of those childhood dreams I'll have to make a point of trying in adulthood.


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