Fairmount: The Awesome Fest Commemorates 80th Anniversary of Drive-in Movies

Movie fan looked on at film, while waiting for family members to arrive.
Philly Roller Girl delivered snacks to drive-in guests.
Philly Roller Girl delivered snacks to drive-in guests.

Movie-goers enjoyed a month of excitement, laughs and thrills this month at a makeshift drive-in movie theater.

Eakins Oval was turned into a drive-in movie theater by members of The Awesome Fest, a local roaming film series. The Awesome Fest hosts events year round, however, drive-in movie nights were only scheduled to last through November

“We just like to look for space in Philadelphia that’s underutilized and it’s the 80th anniversary of the drive-in movie theater,” said John Goldbloom, founder of The Awesome Fest. “Upon doing research, we realized that the drive-in was created and patented by a local not Philadelphia resident, but someone that lived over in Camden.”

The man Goldbloom referred to is Richard Hollingshead, who at the time was just a young man looking to create something that combined his love of cars and his passion for movies. Little did Hollingshead know at the time, but his creation would become a weekend tradition for many Americans for decades.

Sadly, a tradition that lasted for years has become almost non-existent. Families rarely have time to enjoy dinner together now let alone spend Friday nights together due to hectic schedules. Also, new technology has made way for new ways for the younger generation to entertain themselves.

Movie fan looked on at film, while waiting for family members to arrive.
Movie fan looked on at film, while waiting for family members to arrive.

Millenials can go downstairs in their homes and access countless movies on-demand or play any video game of their choice, so why sit in the cold or in a car just to watch a movie?

“Drive-ins started with about 4,000 and now there are only about 400 left,” explained Chivonn Anderson, director of events and volunteer coordinator for The Awesome Fest.

The declining popularity of drive-ins inspired one of the major goals of the five week series, which was to teach people about the history of the drive-in movie.

“Going to a drive-in is something that is just very American,” said Anderson, “but it’s a dying form. To drive up in your car with your friends and family is just something that people aren’t able to experience anymore.”

“The first two weeks have sold out,” Goldbloom excitedly proclaimed. “Last week we had over 800 people in attendance, so yeah I mean I couldn’t be happier.”

Pricing for the event is affordable, which may be one of the reasons that guests were so attracted to it.

“The original price for a drive-in when it started was about 25 cents per car,” explained Anderson.

If guests signed up through event sponsor Enterprise Car Share, tickets were only 25 cents. Otherwise, tickets cost $19.33, commemorating the year that drive-in movies began in 1933.

Eco-friendly guests were also allowed to walk up to the oval with their blankets and chairs and find a spot in the grass for free, which many people did as well.

A wide variety of films have been selected for the program. Among the movies presented were King Kong vs. Godzilla, Pacific Rim, Grease, The Blob, The Car, Christine, Arachnophobia and more.

“We just decided that we wanted to cast a broad net so that we could appeal to families and movie geeks and young people and older people,” explained Scott Weinberg, movie programmer for The Awesome Fest and film critic for FEARnet.

The only thing that could have improved the event would have been warmer temperatures. However, heavy jackets, gloves and mittens protected guests from the cold conditions and warm conversations with friends and family kept them cheerful.


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