Aug 2, 2021

A Celebration Of The Underdog

We Saved The Mahoning Celebration
Mahoning Drive-In - Lehighton, PA
This artwork by Kern Creative Design perfectly captures the moment.  It was only twenty days ago that the future of this incredible place was in jeopardy.  Less than 24 hours later, the #SaveTheMahoning campaign convinced Greenskies Clean Energy to pull out of a deal they had with the landowner to demolish the drive-in and build a solar energy farm in its place.

Tonight was originally scheduled to be a rally to protest against the destruction of the drive-in.  Instead, we're celebrating the fact that we saved the Mahoning, complete with an open mic night for folks to share their stories and two surprise movies.  The folks who run the drive-in didn't say which movies would be screened; they only hinted that both films would "celebrate the power of the underdog".

The poster and t-shirt for tonight was designed by Tom Bifulco, and it perfectly captures the spirit of this event.  With the future of the Mahoning Drive-In threatened, movie lovers from around the world pulled together in its defense, and within 24 hours of the initial announcement, the drive-in was saved.  There's a lot about social media that I'm not a big fan of, but this is definitely one of the positives to come out of it.

Before the show, there was a podium set up in a clearing not far from the merch tents and food trucks where the staff, volunteers and customers of the Mahoning Drive-In were invited to share their thoughts about the drive-in and the community that has built up around it.  I only started coming here in 2021, and I don't feel comfortable with this kind of attention, so I just hung in the background and listened to dozens of awesome people who expressed the way we're all feeling better than I ever could.

At the end of the presentation, Virgil let us know that tonight's free show would be a triple feature, and he "accidentally" let the title of the first film slip.  It was the one underdog movie that I, and I'm sure many others in attendance, were hoping for.

The surprise bonus that turned tonight's double feature into a triple feature was an episode of The Monkees.  Specifically, it was episode 9 from the second season: The Card Carrying Red Shoes, which first aired on November 6, 1967.  Before the show, Virgil said over the radio that this is very likely the first time this was ever shown at a drive-in theater, and I think it's a pretty safe bet that he's absolutely right.  Man, I was not at all expecting this!

As if that isn't cool enough, the recording that was screened included the original commercials from when the episode aired in syndication on the ABC Network in the 1970's.  There were ads for the ABC Afterschool Special, Clearasil, Fig Newtons and The Brady Bunch among others.

Don't change that channel... don't touch that dial... we got it all at the Mahoning Drive-In!

The first movie of the night was the one I was really hoping to see - the 1989 Weird Al Yankovic comedy classic: UHF.  This is one of my favorite comedy films of all time, and seeing it at the drive-in was truly awesome.  It was all I could do to not to shout along with Kuni's lines - "Stooooopiddd".

The intermission reel was one I hadn't seen before at the Mahoning.  It was a series of black and white ads from the early 60's.  It included ads for products and local businesses, and announcements of upcoming movies.  I usually take pictures of the preview title screens so I can look them up later and hopefully find them to stream, but there were so many tonight that it would take me at least a month to find and watch them all.  I'll share the photos of those screens in another post.

My wife guessed that the second underdog movie of the night would be Dodgeball.  I would have been very happy to see that, but I was hoping for Empire Records.  We could have had a thousand guesses and never come up with the 1975 British musical comedy: Never Too Young To Rock.

The film is essentially a promo vehicle for the bands that were signed to GTO Records at the time, including The Glitter Band, The Rubettes, Mud, Scott Fitzgerald, Slik and Bob Kerr's Whoopee Band.  It wasn't exactly a crowd pleaser - the cars started clearing off of the lot at around the 15 minute mark of the movie.  Since this show was free admission with free overnight camping, I kind of wonder if thinning out the crowd was part of the inspiration behind this pick.  We hung with it for as long as we could, but after hearing Peter Denyer say "Mr. Rockbottom" approximately 50 times in a five minute scene, we had to tap out and head home for the night.  It wasn't exactly how I was hoping the night would end, but I definitely understand, and it didn't detract from what an awesome night it was.

We'll be back at the Mahoning for the Keith Coogan double feature in a couple of weeks.