Whoa, slow down there buddy. What’s your hurry? There’s plenty of parking. Just take it easy. We don’t start anything on the Big Screen until the sun goes down. The concession stand is to your right. Fountain drinks, buttered popcorn, chili dogs, pizza, snacks of all kinds. Just remember to turn off your lights when you get past me. And please, no horn honking.
Hey, wait a minute, you don’t have anyone stashed in the trunk, do ya buddy? No? Well then, welcome to Antique Trader’s Drive-In Cinema.
And yes, it’s gotten to this. What with the coronavirus turning movie theaters into ghost towns, we figured it was time for us to open a drive-in.
You remember drive-ins, don’t you? They were an entertainment staple from the late 1950s to the early 1980s; a place where you could enjoy a movie – or two – from the comfort of your own car. Sounds like the perfect remedy for our social-distancing times.
During their glory years, there were more than 4,000 drive-ins throughout the U.S. Most were in rural areas where land was plentiful. Most are now gone, leaving behind memories of a cheap night out and of steamed-up windows.
But we’re bringing them back. We’re featuring ten summer movie classics, films that emerged at the very beginning of the Summer Blockbuster Era of the late 1970s. We stopped in the early 1990s before superheroes changed the summer movie landscape forever.
Antique Trader's Drive-In Cinema features comedies, adventure, suspense, sci-fi wonders and more Steven Spielberg than you’ll know what to do with.
So sit back. Relax. And enjoy the show. But remember, if we find someone hiding in that trunk, there’s going to be trouble.
American Graffiti (1973)
Set at the end of summer 1962, George Lucas gave us a film so basic it almost seems simple. And therein lies the beauty of American Graffiti. Teenagers cruise Main Street, stop at Mel’s Drive-In and listen to Wolfman Jack on the radio. If they’re lucky, they go to Look Out Point to neck. And throughout we are almost convinced this magical, uncluttered time will last forever. Of course, this nostalgic, coming-of-age wonder portraying a day in the life of teenagers can’t possibly last. Heartbreak and responsibility and all that goes with adulthood are right around the corner as the ’60s shift gears into far darker streets. Starring Ron Howard, Richard Dreyfuss, Charles Martin Smith, Cindy Williams, Paul Le Mat and a fantastic soundtrack, American Graffiti is a drive down Memory Lane well worth taking. A poster from the movie in excellent condition can sell for as much as $600.
The movie takes place over the Fourth of July weekend on Amity Island, a tourist resort that feeds off the dollars of its visitors. In the opening sequence, a girl goes swimming by moonlight and is dragged under, screaming, establishing the presence of a man-eating shark in the waters. Hold onto your popcorn, kids, we’re in for a Hitchcockian thriller. Directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Roy Scheider as Police Chief Brody, Richard Dreyfuss as oceanographer Hooper and Robert Shaw as Quint, the salty shark hunter, Jaws became the highest-grossing picture made at that time. It practically invented the term “summer blockbuster.” For Spielberg, it was the launching pad for an extraordinary directorial career. A movie poster in excellent condition can sell for as much as $2,600.
Star Wars (1977)
If you saw George Lucas’ space epic in 1977, it became part of your memory forever, so profound was its impact. Wonderfully goofy, corny as Iowa in August and reminiscent of Saturday afternoon Westerns, Star Wars had us at the opening scene. Starring Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Alec Guinness and James Earl Jones, it offered unforgettable characters (Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Yoda), film history’s greatest villain (Darth Vader) and memorable lines (“May the Force be with you.”). Star Wars spawned a galactic empire of films and toys. Sometimes it’s difficult to remember that it all started here with a good-hearted saga filled with wonder and adventure – the stuff summers are made of. Star Wars movie posters have sold for $7,000+.
OK, this may not be a classic movie in the cinematic sense. It doesn’t even feature the best dancing by John Travolta in a movie (see Saturday Night Fever). But I did fall in “like” with a girl while listening to Travolta and Olivia Newton-John sing, “Summer Nights” from Grease on the radio one magical summer night in 1978. So that counts for something. Puppy love and summers go together like ice cream and root beer. Grease was the biggest film of 1978 with Travolta and Newton-John as Danny and Sandy, two star-crossed lovers at 1950s Rydell High. The cast includes Stockard Channing, Jeff Conaway, Didi Conn, Eve Arden, Frankie Avalon, Joan Blondell, Edd Byrnes and Sid Caesar. The “kids” all look way too old to be in high school. The movie is also about as deep as a kiddie pool, but it’s harmless fun. And I did have a memorable evening sitting on the front steps of a girl’s house, heart aflutter, daring to hold hands while listening to the radio. A movie poster in excellent condition can sell for $400.
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
What’s not to like about Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark? It takes place in Africa, Nepal, Egypt, at sea and in a secret submarine base. Cool! You’ve got archeological treasure hunters. Neato! There are tanks, motorcycles, trucks, ships and subs. Fun! You get snakes, spiders, booby traps and explosions. Whoa! We have a swashbuckling hero named Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford), a sassy sidekick named Marian (Karen Allen) and the Ark of the Covenant all being chased by Nazis(!) – and boy do they get it in the end. The movie is a breathless, funny, whiz-bang action adventure that gave birth to a number of entertaining sequels. A movie poster in excellent condition can sell for $450.
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
It’s a simple story: a lost soul tries to find his way back home. In the hands of Steven Spielberg, it turned into one of the greatest movies ever made. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial was the closing-night attraction at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival, a venue not known for blubbering. When the curtain came down and the lights came up there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Belonging in the ranks of The Wizard of Oz, E.T. is filled with innocence, hope and good cheer. It’s funny and scary. Starring Henry Thomas as Elliott, E.T. is about the relationship between a little boy and a creature from outer space that becomes his best friend. A young Drew Barrymore as Gertie is a delight. E.T. makes us think and feel. It is enchanting, a triumph of the imagination and, nearly 40 years later, has proven to be timeless. A poster in excellent condition can sell for $2,270.
Summer fun would not be complete without at least one Bill Murray movie. You could go with Caddyshack or Stripes and have loads of fun. But for my money, it’s Ghostbusters. The movie stars Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, three graduates of the Second City/National Lampoon/Saturday Night Live tradition. It also features Sigourney Weaver, Rick Moranis, Annie Potts and a twenty-story-tall Stay Puft Marshmallow man. There are laughs, scares, slime and a Manhattan menaced by ghosts of all shapes and sizes. And of course, there is Murray, who makes comedy seem as easy as a summer’s day. A movie poster in excellent condition can sell for $350.
Back to the Future (1985)
The top-grossing film of 1985, Back to the Future is an exhilarating combination of high-velocity adventure, special effects, a likeable cast and a funny script. Toss it all into the Flux Capacitor and – voila – you get great escapist entertainment. Michael J. Fox is Marty McFly who befriends Christopher Lloyd’s nutty Doc Brown. Marty, in a time-travelling DeLorean designed by Doc, zips back to 1955 to straighten out his future mom and dad, teens destined never to meet if not for their future son. Don’t get bogged down in the details. Just sit back and enjoy a wacky yet touching movie. A movie poster in very good condition can sell for $2,400.
Do The Right Thing (1989)
Roger Ebert, one of film’s most widely known and revered critics, wrote this about Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing: “In May of 1989 I walked out of the screening at the Cannes Film Festival with tears in my eyes. Spike Lee had done an almost impossible thing. He’d made a movie about race in America that empathized with all the participants. He didn’t draw lines or take sides but simply looked with sadness at one racial flashpoint that stood for many others.” The movie covers a long, hot summer day in the life of a Brooklyn street, and all the racial tensions found there. More than thirty years later, the tension remains. What has changed, however, is the once enormously controversial movie is now viewed as a classic. A poster from the movie in very fine condition sells for around $100.
Jurassic Park (1993)
By the 1990s, summer meant blockbuster movies and nobody delivered them like Steven Spielberg. Starring Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough, Samuel L. Jackson, a terrifying T-Rex and a slew of nasty raptors, Spielberg convinced us that dinosaurs really do exist. And boy are they hungry! Based on Michael Crichton’s best-selling novel by the same name, Jurassic Park is hugely entertaining, offering an eye-popping, mind-bending thrill ride. Sure, the film lacks a true villain or a true hero, but bad guys get eaten and good guys escape, so there’s that. A poster can sell for as much as $400.