The Mahoning Drive-In’s 2017 Season: Best Bets

For nearly 70 years, the Mahoning Drive-In has brought screenings under the stars to the denizens of the Lehigh Valley. Thanks to recent partnerships with the likes of Exhumed Films, and a desire to “deliver you a true love of film, filmmaking, and the nostalgic moviegoing experience you can only get at the drive-in,” the drive-in brings everything from obscure cult films to beloved favorites to their CinemaScope screen. As their 2017 season soon gets underway, we took a look at what’s been announced for the first few months, and give you a few tips as to the more obscure pictures in the list.

April 28 & 29 – 2017 Season Premiere

Every year, the Mahoning kicks off their season with 35mm screenings of 1939’s The Wizard of Oz and 1971’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. You’ve likely seen these innumerable times before, but getting to see them on a massive screen is definitely a must for these gorgeous family favorites. Plus, in your car, you can sing along to “We’re Off to See the Wizard” as loud as you’d like (and, maybe, hide your tears during “Pure Imagination”).

May 5 & 6 – ‘80s Party Weekend

“Two unforgettable nights of retro fun celebrating a time of neon, glam, and VHS,” says the folks at the Mahoning, and nothing says the ‘80s more than screenings of Weird Science and Footloose. What better way to spend a weekend than watching Gary and Wyatt’s strange adventures, or watching Kevin Bacon bop to the strains of Kenny Loggins? The drive-in will even host costume contests for the best ‘80s film and TV characters. And, if that’s not enough dress-up fun, there’s a special “prom night” contest for couples, as well.

If you snag an overnight pass and choose to stick around to camp out, the Mahoning will have an after-party with music and secret screenings to keep the party going until the wee small hours.

May 12 &13 – Ultrafest: Ultraman Double Feature

In conjunction with the folks at Tsuburaya Productions, the Mahoning Drive-In presents two of the most recent installments in the long-running Japanese action franchise from the co-creator of Godzilla. The most recent film in the series, Ultraman X: Here It Comes! Our Ultraman kicks this off, followed by 2015’s Ultraman Ginga S The Movie. It’s costumed crusaders clobbering kaiju, and not to be missed.

May 26-28 – Zombiefest III

The third annual Exhumed Films Memorial Day massacre, Zombiefest, brings the finest in undead action to the big screen. Each night is a different triple feature, and all the films are presented in glorious 35mm. On Friday, May 26, make sure to catch 1986’s Night of the Comet — Valley Girls fighting the undead after the passing of a strange comet wipes out most of the Earth is not only weird, but an absolute blast and a half. There’s also a rare chance to catch Antonio Margheriti’s 1980 splatterfest, Invasion of the Flesh Hunters. Also known as Cannibal Apocalypse, this John Saxon-starring picture is an underrated gem of the genre.

Saturday brings Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead trilogy. If you know them, you’ve already purchased your tickets. If you haven’t, you need to. Bruce Campbell is Ash, the strong-jawed hapless hero, battling the undead through time. They’re absolute classics of splatter and comedy, and are never more enjoyable than seen with a crowd.

For Sunday, May 28, Zombiefest’s final night, there’s Stephen King and George Romero’s anthology, Creepshow, which kicks off with “Father’s Day,” one of the finest zombie shorts ever created — although the film’s “Something to Tide You Over” isn’t half-bad, either. Romero returns in the night’s second feature, 2005’s Land of the Dead, which might be the closest spiritual successor the director ever had to his seminal Dawn of the Dead. The weekend concludes with the obscure and bizarre Raiders of the Living Dead, in which a young man with a ray gun made from a laserdisc player fights hordes of the living dead. Seeing it at all is pretty tough, but getting to cap your weekend with the only surviving 35mm print is a real treat.

June 2 & 3 – Stanley Kubrick – Director Spotlight

The first installment of the Mahoning’s 2017 Director Spotlight series pays homage to one the greatest of them all — Stanley Kubrick — with back-to-back screenings of 1968’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and 1971’s A Clockwork Orange. Prepare to have your mind blown, seeing these films as they were meant to be seen. Both films’ opening scenes are miniature epics in their own rights, but 2001 under the stars may expand your mind in ways that most can only hope for.

June 16 & 17 – Batman & Burton – Director Spotlight

Holy monumental movie night, Batman! Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman brought the DC Comics character back into the mainstream, and the Caped Crusader’s not really left popular culture in the nearly three decades since. 1992’s sequel, Batman Returns, might not have been as well-received when it first came out, but in the 25 years since, it’s readily made it to the top of the best Bat-films ever, battling for supremacy with Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. Follow the Bat-Signal to the Mahoning for this chance to see this “dynamic duo of a double feature.”

June 23 & 24 – Animals Gone Wild!

Two nights. Six movies. Innumerable creatures that crawl, hop, walk, creep, and otherwise destroy mankind. Most of these are like creepy-crawly revenge films, with the animals taking vengeance because of the hubris of mankind. Case in point: on Friday, June 23, both 1972’s Night of the Lepus and 1977’s Day of the Animals see mutant hares as “a scuttling, shambling horde of creatures destroying all in their path” and “a world gone mad,” respectively.

On Saturday, June 24, even more unlikely creatures attack: 1976’s Squirm has nightcrawlers, and Frogs from 1972 has … frogs, obviously. The weekend is capped with a note-perfect modern (for 1977) update of ‘50s creature features, in the William Shatner-starring, “living, crawling hell on Earth,” Kingdom of the Spiders.

June 30-July 1 – Back to the Future Trilogy

The weekend before the Fourth of July, you have three opportunities to see the Back of the Future trilogy in 35mm! Every night, all three movies screen in order. Watch Marty McFly create rock ‘n’ roll! Thrill to a dystopian future ruled by a mercurial madman in a bad hairpiece! See Biff Tannen covered in poo in three different time periods! It’s a classic series of films, and they’re just as thrilling as they were when they came out.

July 7 & 8 – Drive-in VHS-fest

For anyone who’s ever tracked down obscure, out-of-print films on YouTube, the delight in using big screens to watch grainy video is obvious. This weekend, Lunchmeat VHS brings two days of rare VHS to the Mahoning’s big screen. It’s a crazy idea, but the chance to see screenings of video insanity like Slime City, Mutilations, and both Video Violence films isn’t one to be missed. Mutilations, especially, is the kind of film that comes near to being the platonic ideal of the “we can make a movie!” enthusiasm of the mid-’80s video boom. In addition to the big screen fun, there are tapes rolling all day in the snack bar, as well as vendors, contests, and more. It’s a celebration of lo-res glory, and you need to be there.

July 21 & 22 – Too Cool for School – Ferris Bueller & Summer School

You’ve seen Ferris Bueller’s Day Off a billions times, can quote it front-to-back, and have probably lip-synched to “Twist and Shout” at least once. Still: you need to see it with a crowd, on the big screen, and paired with the absolutely amazing Mark Harmon vehicle, 1987’s Summer School. While Ferris Bueller might be the better-known film, the cast of characters in Summer School makes it a madcap adventure that’s no less epic. Chainsaw and Dave forever, kids.

All these films, and it’s just the first half of the year! Keep an eye on the Mahoning Drive-In’s Facebook page for the rest of their 2017 season, which runs through October, and is bound to feature even more marathons, exclusive screenings, and classics. The Facebook page also has ticket links and further details about all these screenings.

Nick Spacek

Nick Spacek

Nick Spacek writes about films scores in his monthly OST column for Starburst Magazine (http://www.starburstmagazine.com), and can be found talking about movie soundtracks via the From & Inspired By podcast (http:///www.fromandinspiredby.com). He was once a punk, but realized you can't be hardcore and use the word "adorable" as often as he does.
Nick Spacek
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