Jun 7, 2024

It Isn't Raining Rain You Know...

Mahoning 75th Anniversary Celebration: April Showers / Jurassic Park
Mahoning Drive-In Theater - Lehighton, PA
This advertisement was published in the April 29th, 1949 edition of The Morning Call newspaper to promote the opening night of my favorite place in the world to watch movies, The Mahoning Drive-In Theater.

Show banner designed by Andrew Kern

The movie that was screened on opening night at the Mahoning was the Warner Bros musical April Showers.  Sixty-five years later when the industry had transitioned to an all-digital format, they screened Jurassic Park to kick off their second life as a home for folks who enjoy watching classic films on 35mm.  Last night, they celebrated their 75th anniversary with a double feature of these two films.

Prior to sundown, the Mahoning was acknowledged by the community with certificates in honor of their 75th year, and there was a ribbon cutting ceremony on the stage outside of the snack bar.  Mark (bottom left) appears to be doing an impersonation of a deranged crossing guard in this photo.  Sorry buddy... it's the best picture that I got.

You might have noticed a strange looking face in the group photo above Rob and Krista.  That face belonged to this very cool balloon statue of Freddy Kreuger that was created by Robbie Furman.  He's a balloon artist and performer who owns and operates Robbie's Balloons & More in Lehighton, PA.  His work was also on display during opening weekend, and I have a hunch that we'll be seeing more of it this season.

The pre-show cartoon was a 1943 Tom & Jerry short called The Yankee Doodle Mouse.  This reel was a part of Jeff's collection of classic animation on 35mm.

April Showers is a musical about a husband and wife vaudeville team (The Happy Tymes) whose performances have grown stale over time.  The act gets new life when their 12 year old son leaves school to join them on stage, and they achieve new heights as a three-person family act.  Unfortunately, their big opportunity to make it in New York falls flat because of a law that prevents their son from performing.  This causes the father to spiral out of control with alcohol, which gets him blacklisted from the venues where he and his family once performed.  With no other option, his wife and son go on the road with a song-and-dance man named Billy Shay, who is pressuring the wife to leave her husband for him.  The father returns just in time to catch Billy smacking his son around and make his triumphant return to the stage with his family.

This is not at all the kind of movie that I gravitate towards.  I can't imagine any scenario other than this 75th anniversary celebration at the Mahoning that would have put this film on my radar at all, let alone inspired me to give it my full attention.  It wasn't exactly my cup of tea, but I enjoyed it for what it was.  The title song of the movie was nice to hear on the lot.  It's a song that my grandmother used to sing to me when I was very young, and a song that she sang to herself from time to time throughout my life. 

One fun fact about this film that my dad pointed out to me is that the actor who played Billy Shaw (Robert Alda) is the father of actor Alan Alda, who is best known for playing Hawkeye in M*A*S*H.

The 35mm animation that played during intermission was called Runaway Brain.  This is a Disney cartoon from 1995 that we have seen at the Mahoning twice before, once in 2021 and again in 2022.  It feels more like a Looney Tunes than a Mickey Mouse cartoon, which is probably why I enjoy it as much as I do.  I'm not sure if it's available to stream through official channels, but someone has uploaded it to YouTube.

Jurassic Park was the second half of Thursday night's double feature.  We saw this at the Mahoning in August 2021, but I was at a ballgame with my dad earlier that day and didn't get there until later in the day and were parked pretty far back on the lot.  This time, we got to see it from "our spot" in the front row to the right of the digital booth, and it looked as incredible on the big screen as it always does.

Before we headed home, we got to see a 35mm print of a 1947 Woody Woodpecker cartoon called Smoked Hams.  We saw this once before during Opening Weekend 2022, but vintage cartoons are always a welcome sight on the big screen at the Mahoning.  It was a great end to another perfect night at the drive-in.