Not your average drive-in, the Mahoning is an entirely volunteer operation, owned and managed by a seasoned projectionist, aided by a crowd of local film buffs.
For a time, its giant screen was dark, because no one could afford the switch to a digital format, and the only way to stay on the current film distribution circuit would have been to drop the cash for the switch, since actual film was going the way of the dinosaurs. So what did this crew of desperadoes do? They took themselves off the current film distribution circuit altogether, opting for retro, and continuing to run their original 1940's Simplex projectors, while renting whatever older films could still be shown on their screen.
You would think, in the wilds of Pennsylvania, this would doom them, but thanks to social media saavy, the programming decision worked, drawing people from all over the U.S., some of whom camp out to go to one of the Mahoning’s festivals, or see a particular film in its traditional format. And that’s not all the local crew has done.
If you watch At the Drive-In, the documentary that put the Mahoning on the map of great places to go in summertime, you’ll get the full story. I refuse to spoil the narrative of this fine documentary by telling you what happened when Jaws,which they’d rented on film from Hollywood, didn’t arrive on time. You’ll have to watch the film yourself to learn about that.
Meanwhile, a trip to LeHighton on May 15, (bring your camping gear) could, this season, entitle you to two versions of The Fly, one the original from 1958 and the other from the eighties – almost as distant to us. Both in 35 mm, of course. And that’s just one weekend...There’s a 4-night Zombie Fest starting May 29, if you’re interested in warm human flesh as a way to mark the transition into summer...