Back in the '90s, writer-director April Wright started thinking about the fate of the drive-in movie theater.
"When I lived in Chicago and then moved to L.A., there were many drive-ins that were shut down," she says. "I would stop to look at them. They were so big and had such great neon signs. I didn't know how anyone could let them fall into disrepair. I always had a fascination. I remember I was looking at articles and books and thought it would make an interesting movie."
At the time, there were still about 1,000 drive-ins left in the country. But then in 2005, she noticed that the number had dropped to 500. She knew she better hurry or they'd all be gone. So in 2006 she took the first of three cross-country trips in the attempt to document the remaining drive-ins and the people who loved then. She ended up visiting about 500 total locations.
"Most of the drive-ins aren't near major cities, so it was an interesting way to see the country," she says. "I was driving across the United States by going from little town to little town."
The resulting documentary, Going Attractions: The Definitive Story of the American Drive-in Movie, shows at 9:45 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 8 at the Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque, and Wright will introduce the movie. Wright says that talking about the movie with an audience has been one of the real joys of promoting the self-distributed film.
"I've lived with the film for so many years," she says. "I looked at it a million times. I love seeing it with an audience and hearing people react. They want to tell me their drive-in stories. The cool thing is that people presume that Baby Boomers will appreciate the films the most because it brings up memories but strangely the people who come to me are young and they're so inspired. They feel like they've been missing out. They get really excited about it, more than the older people."