Episode #193 — Virgil from the Mahoning Drive-In Theater

At this point, it’s no secret that I’m a fan of “The Golden Girls.” It’s also a definite possibility that I could tie any subject covered on Why? The Podcast back to the ladies of Miami. But out of respect to Heidi and Luke, I don’t. Plus, there are plenty of podcasts out there that have the subject covered. And I’m certainly not a big enough fan to have attended the first-ever Golden-Con this past weekend. What would someone even do there, anyway? Go to fascinating panels to learn why the writers and actors of “The Golden Girls” were ahead of their time? Eat a Dorothy Zbornak Antipasto Salad at the Shady Pines Cafeteria? Find out from Dinah Manoff that Bea Arthur didn’t allow gum chewing on her set? Pure speculation.

I need to stick to the subject at hand this week, which is drive-in movie theaters. Even if you’ve never been to one personally, chances are you’ve seen one in a movie. Danny and Sandy had a disastrous date at one in “Grease.” Drive-ins must attract grease because the Greasers snuck into one in “The Outsiders.” And Pee-wee got to see his life’s story on the drive-in’s big screen at the end of “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure.” This iconic piece of Americana even gets references on television. In a complete coincidence, Rose Nylund once recalled when she used to go to drive-ins with her now-deceased husband: “Charlie liked to do all the typical teenage things. When we’d go to a drive-in movie, he’d hide me in the trunk, so we only had to pay admission for one. And after the movie, he’s drive me home, let me out of the trunk, and tell me all about it.”

Not that any of our listeners would ever sneak into a drive-in to hook up the speaker to their car, go overboard at the concession stand, and maybe hit the playground in front of the big screen before the movie starts. (Just remember what happened in “Twister.”) We all proudly pay the price of admission, if we have a local drive-in, to make sure it stays in business. Especially if it’s one as special as the Mahoning Drive-In Theater.

For this week’s episode we talked with Virgil Cardamone, the film booker at the Mahoning Drive-In Movie Theater, located in Lehighton, PA. We delved into all things drive-in: why they’re having a moment right now, what’s so special about his particular theater, and what kind of community support he has at his location. For those of us who grew up going to drive-ins, this was a great walk down memory lane and a reminder of why it’s still fun to go. And if you’ve never been to one, you’re going to be Googling your nearest location — or else planning a trip to the Mahoning Drive-In Theater.

Virgil explained that the theater has been open since 1949, and it’s currently styled as a retro drive-in theater. As a film booker, he looks for just the right movies (or pairings) for each showing. But it’s not as easy as ordering whichever movie he wants. The Mahoning Drive-In uses its original projectors, which means they need 35mm film. If you’re not sure what makes 35mm desirable or how difficult it can be to come by, Virgil explains it all.

The Mahoning Drive-In Theater is a beloved destination, but its future was not always secure. Tune in to hear the truly epic 1980s underdog movie about the theater’s fight to stay open against all odds. Virgil also spoke with us about why he thinks drive-in movies strike a particular chord with moviegoers, what kinds of movies they show, and what they have in store for their patrons this drive-in movie season.

For more information, check out the Mahoning’s website, and you can follow them on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. We’re off to call dibs on the way-back of the station wagon and get settled in for a great double feature. Could someone run to the concession stand for us? We’ve already changed into our footie pajamas.

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