Jun 2, 2024

The Aliens Have Landed In Lehighton

Alien Invasion Weekend
Mahoning Drive-In Theater - Lehighton, PA
The aliens have landed at the Mahoning Drive-In Theater.  Some of them were friendly and brought back all of the folks that they've abducted over the years.  Some of them wanted to implant their young inside of you where they will gestate until bursting through your stomach.  Others were just curious to know what would happen if you abduct one logger from Arizona and spend five days shrink-wrapping his head.

Show banner designed by Andrew Kern
Show poster designed by Tom Bifulco
Show t-shirt designed by Tom Bifulco

The merch table was jammed throughout the weekend, with a line that stretched well outside of the concession building.  It was a level of traffic that's usually only seen at bigger events like ZombieFest, VHS Fest, or Camp Blood.  The show posters and t-shirts, both of which were designed by artist Tom Bifulco, were fast sellouts.

The Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company were on the lot on Saturday with their Mahoning inspired lager, Showtime At Sundown.   They also sold out their table, with every last can of beer in the hands or trunk of someone on the lot.  I think they may have had a few frisbees and tote bags by the time that the first movie hit the screen.

Unfortunately, they did not have Summer Dollars available at the drive-in this weekend.  The Jaws-inspired sour ale with blood orange and sea salt was a big hit when Neshaminy Creek visited the Mahoning last year.  However, I was able to pick up a pack of their Rita's Italian Ice inspired fruit brews.  The 12-pack has three flavors: Mango, Peach Ring, and Cherry Lemonade.  I'm especially looking forward to trying the Peach Ring tonight at the Young Frankenstein screening.

Darryl Mayeski of Screem Magazine was also on the lot on Saturday night.  The first 25 people at the gate were given a free magazine, and there was a table set up in the concession building with other magazines, movies, and soundtracks available for sale.  They also had an amazing raffle with a grand prize of 37 Blu-ray movies that I came painfully close to winning (the winning ticket was 278399 and I had 278392).

Close Encounters Of The Third Kind is a movie that I wasn't able to fully appreciate until Friday night at the drive-in.  I first saw it in the late 90's when I worked for Blowout Video.  It's often talked about as one of the greatest science fiction movies of all time, but when I brought home to watch on VHS, it didn't really connect with me.  I enjoyed it, but it didn't make sense to me why it would even be in the conversation on any "best of" lists.  In the years that followed, I think that I might have watched it one more time, but on both occasions, the movie really didn't get my full attention.  It was playing on a small screen at home at times when I'm sure that my attention was distracted.

Now that I've gotten to see it on the big screen, at a time and place in which it was given my full attention, and perhaps with a few more decades of maturity, I can see what all of the hype was about.  This is a beautiful film and an incredible story, and I'm very glad to have had the opportunity to see it on 35mm.

I know I've said this before, but it bears repeating.  There is something truly special about seeing a space themed movie on a clear night at the Mahoning.  These pictures don't even come close to doing justice to the experience.  The sky around you and the stars above you become part of the film in a way that you just have to see to believe.

The 35mm trailer reel that played before the second feature included a mid-80's advertisement for Cherry 7Up.  Their "isn't it cool in pink" ad campaign played on television and in movie theaters when I was a kid.  The pink really pops off of the screen on an otherwise black and white film.  I wonder what a full length movie would look like if done in this way.

This isn't the same exact commercial that was shown at the Mahoning, but it's from the same ad campaign so the style is the same.

There was a brief introduction from Travis Walton to the second half of Friday night's double feature.  He is the man whose alleged accounts of being abducted by a UFO served as the foundation for the 1993 feature film Fire In The Sky.

Fire In The Sky premiered in the United States on March 12th, 1993.  I was in middle school at the time, and you'd think that a nerdy, sci-fi obsessed kid would have been all over this, but I didn't even know that it existed, and that didn't change for another quarter century when it came up in a list on a WhatCulture video that I was watching.  I finally ended up streaming it during the pandemic and loved it.  It's part Law & Order, part alien abduction story, and while I have absolutely zero belief that the story written by Travis Walton has any truth to it whatsoever, it is probably the most realistic feeling science fiction movie I've ever seen.

Friday night was very well attended, but the screening of Alien and Aliens on Saturday night was on another level.  The lot was sold out for the second consecutive Saturday.  I'm not sure if that has ever happened in the time since I've been coming here.  It's very awesome to see that so many folks are discovering what an incredible place this is.

This was not the first time that I got to see Alien at the Mahoning.  We were in attendance for a Tunnel Vision Tuesday screening two years ago, but this is a movie that never feels old or dated despite the fact that it came out 45 years ago.  If you haven't seen it yet, I cannot recommend it highly enough.

For as great as Alien is, I enjoy Aliens even more.  Like its predecessor, we saw this at a 2022 Tunnel Vision Tuesday screening at the Mahoning, but this weekend as the first opportunity that we had to see the two films as a double feature on 35mm.

Even though we've seen both of these movies at the Mahoning before, last night was an entirely different experience for me.  We had only been coming here for about a year the first time that we each of these on the lot.  Back in those days, we talked to a few folks here and there, but we mostly kept to ourselves.  I'm not going to unpack all of my psychological baggage here, but suffice to say that it takes a little while before I feel comfortable in a new setting, and if anything, it takes my wife even longer.  Since that time, we've made friends with a lot of awesome folks, and we were lucky enough to be able to enjoy this weekend with quite a few of them.

The Mahoning really has become kind of like Cheers to me.  I can't remember the last time I've been on the lot where somebody didn't call out my name and come running over to chat, or to pet Harvey, or who have come up to join our little Front Row Right crew to enjoy the movie with us.  If you're reading this and you're one of those people, please know that you totally made my day every time.  To say that I'm socially awkward would be a massive understatement, but this place has really allowed me to come out of my shell.  Having spent most of the first 40 years of my life feeling like an outsider in nearly every situation, I can't tell you all how much it blows my mind to feel the sense of belonging that you all have given me.  Thank you all.