‘At the Drive-In’ documentary on Mahoning Drive-In in Lehighton now available on DVD and digital
After screening at film festivals, on television, and at the local drive-in theater that is the subject of this award-winning documentary, “At the Drive-In” is finally available on DVD and digital platforms like iTunes and Amazon.
Released on home video on April 9, the heartwarming movie tells the story of the Mahoning Drive-In Theater in Lehighton, Pennsylvania, one of the last remaining drive-in theaters in the country, and the team of people trying to keep this outdoor venue alive in the modern world. The synopsis reads:
From sleeping in the concession stand to working entirely for free, the quirky film fanatics at the struggling Mahoning Drive-In face uncertainty when Hollywood announces it will switch to digital projection for all new movies. Unable to purchase an expensive digital projector, the Mahoning gang pin their hopes of survival on showing only vintage 35mm film prints on their original 1949 projectors. Relive their underdog story to save film, the Mahoning Drive-in, and drive-in theaters everywhere. “At the Drive-in” is a documentary about the magic of movies and the people who love them.
“At the Drive-In” director Alexander Monelli, a Clarks Summit native and Abington Heights High School graduate currently living and making documentaries in Lancaster, screened the film at the Northeast Pennsylvania Film Festival at the Waverly Community House in 2017 and at the Mahoning Drive-In itself in 2018. Receiving positive reviews throughout its festival run, which included stops at multiple Alamo Drafthouses and the famous TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, “At the Drive-In” won Best Local Feature at the 26th Philadelphia Film Festival in 2017.
“Technology moves so fast today, faster than ever before. As technology distracts us from one another and segments us further into smaller audiences, it was just magical to see a bunch of people gather together in rural Pennsylvania to watch film flicker through a projector from 1948,” Monelli said in a press release. “That’s ultimately what this documentary is about.”
Before it premiered on TV through WVIA last August, Virgil Cardamone, a partner and film booker for the Mahoning and one of the stars of the documentary, talked about how much he and his friends enjoyed making a movie “that is forever our calling card” on the NEPA Scene Podcast.
“We were very open. It was a plus that we hit it off with Al, the director. … It was very easy for us to open up to him and really share our hearts,” Cardamone said during the podcast live stream.
“For those who have seen it, it’s a very personal story. It’s a very uplifting story, one of those things where there’s something universal about following your dream. There’s something universal about preserving your past. What we do at the Mahoning is a portal to the past, and the embrace from the fan base has been really breathtaking. We’ve been lucky enough, now that it’s making the festival rounds, [to go] around the country with this thing.”
He noted that the film has also helped the theater reach new audiences and attract even more film fans from around North America.
“It’s really just a series of dreams come true now where it’s like this thing has just lifted us up and just taken us off,” Cardamone emphasized. “It’s a destination spot. We always say we’re like a comic con every weekend. It’s an immersive atmosphere. We don’t just play retro movies.”
“At the Drive-In” is available to rent or buy on both iTunes and Amazon Prime Video, but those who purchase the DVD will have access to exclusive bonus features, including over 17 minutes of deleted scenes, three separate feature-length commentary tracks (two with the cast and one with the director), a 30-minute Q&A filmed at an Alamo Drafthouse screening, and the trailer.
Just a few days after its release, the movie reached No. 6 on Amazon’s Best Sellers List in the DVD documentary category, and it continues to sell well as the Mahoning prepares for its 2019 season premiere – a double feature of “The Wizard of Oz” (1939) and “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” (1971) on Friday, April 26 and Saturday, April 27. Tickets are on sale now via Brown Paper Tickets. See the full season and purchase tickets for every showing at mahoningdit.com and the theater’s Facebook page.
Learn more about running the Mahoning Drive-In Theater and the making of the documentary in Episode 74 of the NEPA Scene Podcast with Virgil Cardamone and FilmBuffOnline editor Rich Drees, who was the first critic to review the film: