Sep 10, 2023

Things Went Askew At The Drive-In

Clerks / Mallrats / Clerks II
Mahoning Drive-In Theater - Lehighton, PA

This is an event that I've been waiting for every since I first discovered this place.  There hasn't been a Kevin Smith Fest at the Mahoning since September 2018... three years before we visited this drive-in for the first time.  I've kept an eye on my phone ever September since then in the hopes of seeing it return, but 2021 and 2022 went by without even a mention of it, but it has finally returned in 2023 in the form of a triple feature of three of my favorite films in the View Askewniverse.

Show banner designed by Andrew Kern

The poster for Kevin Smith Fest V was designed by artist Tom Bifulco.  It's designed in the style of the Clerks: The Animated Series and its loaded with easter eggs that reference both the Mahoning and the View Askewniverse.

The concession building was decked out in references to Clerks, including a hockey goal on the roof and a banner written in shoe polish to assure us that they're open (and yes, the lobby did smell like shoe polish when we were there).

The Mallrats rental store poster above was not hanging in the concession building on the night of Kevin Smith V, but I snapped a picture of it when it was hanging up in the weeks leading up to this event.  My guess is that it got bumped at the last minute by the incredible Clerks poster that was autographed to the Mahoning by Kevin Smith, Jason MewesBrian O'HalloranJeff Anderson, and Marilyn Ghigliotti.

I'm glad that we got into the concession building early because a pretty massive thunderstorm blew into town sometime between 6:00 - 7:00.  It continued through the entire first movie and didn't stop until the second intermission before Clerks II.

One of the reasons for the five year gap between Kevin Smith Fest IV and V is because Virgil was planning the fifth Kevin Smith Fest as a big event with special guests from the View Askewniverse movies, including Kevin Smith himself.  There were plans to make that happen this year.  Unfortunately, scheduling conflicts didn't allow this to happen, as the cast of Clerks were all booked in attendance at an event that the Mahoning is co-promoting at the New Jersey Expo & Convention Center.  However, they did film several nice introduction videos to the folks in attendance at the drive-in that were played prior to the start of the first movie.

The first movie of the night hit the big screen with the rain, thunder, and lightening still surrounding us.  It was Kevin Smith's 1994 directorial debut: Clerks.  I saw this movie for the first time when I was 15 years old.  I was living with my grandparents in West Hazleton at the time, and I spent a lot of time in my bedroom at the top of the stairs watching movies that I had rented from either Blockbuster Video, Hollywood Video, or PQ Video inside the Pantry Quik up the street, but this wasn't the first Kevin Smith movie that I ever watched (more on that later).

I fell in love with Clerks about five minutes into seeing it for the first time, and it instantly became one of my favorite comedy flicks of all time.  I loved it more as the years went by, especially after I worked at a convenience store and a video rental store.  It's one of the few comedies that I truly identify with and that makes me laugh as hard today as it did the first time that I ever saw it.  Rain or no rain, having the opportunity to see a 35mm print of it at a drive-in theater is the very definition of a bucket list screening for me.

The top video was filmed and shared on Instagram by folks who work for the Mahoning.  The video on the bottom was shot by me in my car.  Both give you an idea of how intense the thunderstorm was during the screening of Clerks.  The storm was even worse than this for a little while before the movie began.  We've sat through some pretty intense storms over the past few years at the drive-in, but this is the first time that I thought there might be a chance of a lightning strike on the screen.  Thankfully, that didn't happen.

There were two 35mm prints of Loony Tunes shorts that were screened during the first intermission.  The first was Sylvester Cat cartoon from 1951 called Canned Feud, and the second was a 1960 Wile E Coyote / Road Runner cartoon called Fastest With The Mostest.

I'm always happy to see these screened at the Mahoning, both because I'm a huge fan of classic cartoons (and Loony Tunes in particular) and because it's an opportunity to see these cartoons as they were originally intended to be seen.  For most of my life, I watched cartoons like these on television on Saturday mornings or from VHS tapes (and later DVD), but they were originally produced to be shown at movie theaters, either as a pre-show, an intermission, or along with news reels.  Before we discovered the Mahoning, it never even occurred to me that I'd have an opportunity to see original prints of vintage cartoons in the same way that my grandfather experienced them when they were brand new.

The second movie of the night was the second movie of Kevin Smith's career and the first of his movies that I ever saw: Mallrats.  It premiered in theaters in 1995, but I didn't see it until it came out on home video.

Mallrats first fell on my radar because of this advertisement which was done in the style of a Magic Eye poster.  I was 15 years old and had a part-time job at Burger King at the time, and I remember that I talked about this movie at work shortly after renting it from the new release wall, which is how I saw it for the first time.  My friend Darwin, who was also on the BK crew, mentioned to me that the Jay and Silent Bob characters were in another movie called Clerks, so I circled back to the video store to catch Kevin Smith's first film after seeing his second.  It was the last time that I ever watched an Askewniverse film out of order.

Last. but not least, was the 2006 sequel to Kevin Smith's directorial debut: Clerks II.  My wife and I saw this in theaters not long after it was released.  In fact, it was one of our first dates.  I can't remember any movie, before or since, that made me laugh out loud in the theater as hard as the donkey show scene at the end.

This clown makes me smile every time that I watch Clerks II.  Before my wife and I started dating, we took a road trip through the Garden State in which we were guided by a book called Weird New Jersey.  The book was filled with all kinds of oddities, including roadside attractions, historical markers, places that are allegedly haunted, and strange signs like this one.  The clown is called Calico and it stood outside of a liquor store in Middletown, New Jersey.  We took a few pictures of it (along with many other things from the book) and didn't expect to see it again as soon as we did.

A few months later after my wife and I had started officially dating, we went to see Clerks II at Cinemark during its initial run in theaters and we both started laughing when we saw Calico pop up in the opening credits.

There was a secondary credit reel at the end of the feature that I had forgotten entirely about until it hit the big screen.  When Clerks II was still in production, Kevin Smith promised to put the names of everyone who had friended Mooby's on MySpace into the credits of his upcoming film.  The print is super small and it goes by at rocket speed, but there I am, and I'm pretty sure that the name above mine diagonally to the right is my cousin Jimmy.

And that's a wrap on Kevin Smith Fest V.  I hope that they are able to do this again as a weekend-long event with special guests, but even if that never happens, I'm very glad to have had the opportunity to see my three favorite films of the View Askewniverse at the drive-in.  Rain or not, this was a dream come true!