Circle Drive-In Theatre in Dickson City hosts B-movie roadshow of ‘Dracula vs. Frankenstein’ on May 26
From a press release:
Following a successful opening last weekend with coronavirus safety protocols in place, the Circle Drive-In Theatre in Dickson City is welcoming a B-movie roadshow among its regular showings of mainstream Hollywood films.
As COVID-19 wreaks havoc on the movie industry, major indoor theater chains are still closed. In addition, studios and movie distributors continue to collapse windows and go direct to consumer via streaming, bypassing theaters and making it difficult for many drive-in owners to get movie product.
As an alternative, Sam Sherman, veteran producer, distributor, and showman of drive-in movies from the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s, will be making his newly-restored catalog of B-movie classics from Independent-International Pictures Corporation available to drive-in operators nationwide with the help of veteran drive-in theatrical distributor Mel Maron; former AMC programmer David Sehring of Drive-In-Sanity Films; drive-in promoter and movie reviewer George Reis, who runs the popular DVD Drive-In website; and David Gregory of Severin Films, who handled the restoration efforts on various titles in the library.
To celebrate the great American drive-in, Sherman, who serves as president of Independent-International Pictures Corp., will kick off a nationwide roadshow featuring his most iconic film, 1971’s “Dracula vs. Frankenstein,” on Tuesday, May 26 at 9 p.m. at the Circle Drive-In (1911 Scranton/Carbondale Hwy., Dickson City).
Later this fall, George Reis, who produces the semi-annual Super Monsterama Show at the Riverside Drive-In Theatre in Vandergrift, Pennsylvania, will be bringing Sherman’s Hemisphere horror films back to the big screen, including the popular “Blood Island” franchise of films produced in the ’60s. More special promotions and participating drive-ins will be announced in the coming months as the drive-in season gets into full swing on the East Coast.
A self-described P.T. Barnum of drive-in movies, Sherman plans to provide theater owners with marketing ideas to “wow ’em” as well as some throwback nostalgia featuring gags, gimmicks, and limited edition souvenirs to coincide with an aggressive social media and marketing campaign, plus special guest appearances and raffles to lure customers and their communities to the thematic retro roadshow.
“As an exploitation pioneer, I know how to recapture the magic and campy fun my films brought to drive-ins during their heyday with good old-fashioned ballyhoo and showmanship – something that has been missing for years in the film business,” Sherman said.
“I think kids and their folks will get a big kick out of seeing something you rarely see today.”
Sherman created such classic gimmicks like “The Oath of Green Blood,” which urged audiences at the beginning of the film “Mad Doctor of Blood Island” to recite an on-screen pledge and drink a green fluid to keep the monsters in the movie away during the showing of the picture.
As a producer of films made for drive-ins, he understands the appeal of seeing movies on the big screen.
“It’s bigger. Better. Safer. Seeing movies at the drive-in is a classic moviegoing experience and great American pastime. Not only does it provide a wonderful sense of community with family and friends, it is a perfect escape from the troubles of the world. It cannot be duplicated indoors or at home on smaller screen TVs or mobile devices,” Sherman summed up.
“The drive-ins made lots of money with my movies, including those owned by Sumner Redstone’s National Amusements. My films have become cult classics, all thanks to the drive-in and a community of fans all over the world.”
The library of films includes the popular Tiki-themed Hemisphere monster movies (“The Blood Island” franchise) and the Al Adamson “Cult Classic” collection, which features horror and sci-fi, martial arts, motorcycle, urban, and other genre favorites (eg. “Dynamite Brothers,” “Satan’s Sadists,” and “Brain of Blood”). A number of these films were the subject of a newly released documentary on an independent drive-in film maverick called “Blood & Flesh: The Reel Life & Ghastly Death of Al Adamson,” which tells of the true Hollywood story of Sherman’s former production partner and friend who was tragically killed in 1995 in a bizarre case of murder.
Though extremely popular in the ’50s and ’60s, the number of drive-in theaters, once in the thousands, has since dwindled. With daylight savings time, conversion to digital, movie studio consolidation, and even global warming, the iconic drive-in movie theater has weathered a number of storms. There are approximately 305 left in the United States, according to the Los Angeles Times. Most drive-ins are family owned and operated and still exist for their unique atmosphere and for the love of moviegoing. New drive-ins are still being built while pop-up drive-ins have taken the moviegoing experience to vacant parking lots, malls, and other outdoor spaces across the country. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to recommend social distancing as a means of stopping the spread of the virus, drive-in theater owners that have remained open have said they have seen an uptick in business.
“Did you know that drive-in movie theaters helped get us through one of our major health crises of the 20th century?” Sherman asked.
“Back in the 1960s, the administration of the polio vaccine took place nationwide at various drive-ins across the country. Perhaps there is a reason for us to turn back to the drive-in to provide some escape and comfort in these worrisome times. As in the past, drive-ins are also opening in various parts of the country to provide Sunday services for those looking for spiritual comfort from the safety of their cars. Graduations are also hitting the big screen as a way for families to celebrate the accomplishments of their kids. Of course, movies will continue to be the main attraction.”
Sherman is currently finishing up his memoir as a drive-in movie producer, entitled “When Dracula Met Frankenstein.” Sherman lives in New Jersey, the state where the first drive-in movie theater was opened in 1933.
Tickets for movies now showing at the Circle Drive-In are $5 each for children ages 3-11 and $8 each for adults 12 and up. The theater lists the rules for entry during the coronavirus pandemic:
If you attend the drive-in, be advised that:
- You must view the movie from within your vehicle.
- You must wear a mask and practice social distancing.
- Restrooms will be open, and masks are required to enter.
- The concession stand is closed.
Circle Drive-In staff will adhere to CDC protocols, including pre-screening and temperature monitoring, mask requirements, social distancing, and strict disinfecting and cleaning procedures.
We wish to sincerely thank all our loyal customers for their continued support, and we look forward to better serving you in the near future when this present situation has passed.
The Circle Drive-In has a 1,000 car capacity and typically shows movies on its main 5,000 square foot screen and adjacent smaller screen on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights from April through September, including double features. It has currently extended its hours to Mondays and Tuesdays as well to meet demand.
The Flea Fair held on the lot almost every week is still closed until further notice. As the largest flea market and farmers market in Northeastern Pennsylvania, it usually hosts hundreds of vendors every Sunday from March through November, but the novel coronavirus has put the popular event on hold.
The Circle opened as a drive-in theater on Sept. 10, 1949, making it one of the longest-running drive-ins in the United States. Today, it uses digital projection and audio but maintains a classic feel with its old signage and fully stocked refreshment stand.
The Circle Drive-In also holds special events like the seasonal Circle of Screams haunted attraction, the NEPA Horror Film Festival, Cult Movie Club screenings, and themed movie nights in addition to parties, weddings, fundraisers, and occasional live music.
About 65 miles away, the Mahoning Drive-In Theater in Lehighton, which shows classic movies on the largest CinemaScope screen in Pennsylvania, postponed its planned opening on April 24-25.
“Some drive-ins and outdoor venues have adapted to host a variety ‘social distancing’ activities during the quarantine, and we are honored that so may of you have reached out to us about opening as hosts of similar activities ourselves. We have taken the stance that if it’s not safe to open for our season, it’s not safe to open for any other reason. We stand by the motion to stay home and stay safe because that helps us open safely sooner! In observance of state and federal directives, and our own sense of responsibility, we are postponing our opening weekend,” the Mahoning Drive-In crew posted on its website.
“We will release an alternative date as soon as possible. In the meantime, our crew is devising an action plan to ensure a safe moviegoing experience when it comes time to roll those reels! We will continue to update everyone as this all unfolds. Until then, stay home, stay safe.”