It was 1968, and I had been told that our family was going to a drive-in movie and that "with six you get eggroll." We were all very excited, but I was very concerned because our family only numbered five. Anyone could clearly see that. But I trusted that my parents had some strategy - I had never had an eggroll and really wanted to try one.
The drive-in was created by Richard M. Hollingshead, Jr. in Camden, New Jersey in 1933. In its heyday in the 1950s/60s, there were over 3700 drive-ins in the United States. It was the perfect family outing or place to take a date - an outdoor movie viewed from within your own private environment. Sound was provided via a speaker which could be hung on the inside of the auto's window. Concessions were a short walk away.
As my family drove to the entrance of the Drive-In, my heart sank. There it was on the marquis. With Six You Get Eggroll was the title of a film starring Doris Day (I later learned this was her last appearance in a film). No eggrolls for me.
But once I moved to New York City, closure was achieved - I had many an eggroll. But no drive-ins. However, we have the perfect urban equivalent. For some years, films have been aired around New York City in various parks during the summer. The Bryant Park Summer Film Festival screens films on Monday evenings. The event began in the early nineties and is now sponsored by HBO. What better way to enjoy the season than an outdoor film (or concert)? People bring picnics, chairs and/or blankets.
The death of theater has been predicted since the beginning of video and home entertainment systems, yet theater business booms. The numbers of drive-ins has declined dramatically - there are only about 400 nationwide. However, there is an independent revival afoot - groups like mobmov.org and guerilladrivein.org are doing impromptu screenings projected on surfaces like warehouse walls or bridge pillars. One thing missed in many of these fatalistic predictions are social needs. The huge turnouts for outdoor events, soldout theaters and independent revivals demonstrate this need. People enjoy sharing entertainment with other people, not just from the comfort of their homes.
On Friday, June 18, Films on the Green presented the French Film 8 Women in Washington Square Park, shown in today's photo. The cast of eight, with Catherine Deneuve, may appear quite large, but not if With Six You Get Eggroll :)
Note: The Films on the Green series of free screenings is jointly organized by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy and the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation for the third year running.