The traditional drive-in movie is rare to find today, but the Wexner Center for the Arts looks to continue to preserve the atmosphere of a drive-in experience for the next generation.
The 13th season of the Wex’s summer drive-in movie series is set to open with “Moonrise Kingdom” in 35-mm film on Thursday night.
Erik Pepple, spokesman for the the Wex, said that the three films shown throughout the summer each year generally fall into the categories of one contemporary, one classic Hollywood, and one cult-classic film.
The 2012 Wes Anderson film, “Moonrise Kingdom,” which follows a pair of twelve-year-olds in love who decide to run away from their homes in 1965 New England, fills the contemporary slot this year, following the tradition of using Anderson’s films. In previous years the Wex has shown, “The Darjeeling Limited,” “Bottle Rocket” and “Fantastic Mr. Fox.”
“The recent film in the last few years has always been a Wes Anderson film because we’re huge Wes Anderson fans here at the Wex, and audiences for the drive-in really love his films as well,” Pepple said. “We always get a really amazing turn out for those.”
Before the film starts, Radiohead’s new music video for its song, “Daydreaming” will also be shown in 35-mm on the outdoor big screen. Pepple estimated that the Wex was one of only 50-100 theaters in the country to receive the video about a month ago in its 35-mm print.
Showing all films at the drive-in in 35-mm format is something David Filipi, director of film and video at the Wex, is committed to.
“If you look at every other outdoor film series around the city, they’re showing it on DVD or Blu-ray, and it just looks a million times better on film,” Filipi said. “The projector is brighter, and it just shows up better outside.”
Filipi chooses the films for the drive-in along with his assistant curator. He said it’s not a very scientific process, and they keep an eye out for films that aren’t regularly shown and are more action- than dialogue-oriented.
“We try to pick things that maybe a little bit broader audience would appreciate compared to some of the other films that we show at the Wexner Center that might be for a more select audience,” Filipi said.
The films that they are showing tend to be old enough to still have film prints available, as all films were filmed on this format until recently, Filipi said. “Psycho” was released in 1960 and “Unstoppable” in 2010, and although more contemporary, Anderson is one of the few that still creates films on 35-mm print.
“There is a small group of people who still have the clout to continue to make films on film, but there aren’t very many,” Filipi said.
With screening the movie outside instead of in a theater, they are giving up a certain level of control with the potential for sirens interrupting the sound and ambient light from the cars affecting the picture, Fillipi said.
“I think people are more than willing to put up with that for the fun that’s added from being outside,” he said.
On July 21, the Wex will show Filipi’s all-time favorite film, Alfred Hitchcock’s classic horror film, “Psycho,” and he said he is excited to see how the film goes over for the drive-in audience.
The cult-classic category is filled this year by “Unstoppable,” starring Denzel Washington, which will be shown on Aug. 18. It is the perfect drive-in film because it’s “pure action,” Filipi said.
In presenting its yearly drive-in series, the Wex hopes to preserve the tradition and ambience of the drive-in movie, even without the cars.
“It’s such a great pop-culture tradition to share with a big group of people outside under the stars,” Pepple said. “And that’s something that doesn’t happen so much anymore since drive-ins have kind of disappeared. The Wex Drive-In is our way of hopefully recreating that experience minus the cars for folks to have this great communal experience of sharing a great movie with people.”
The film is set to begin at dusk, around 9 p.m. Thursday, but patrons are invited to come as early as 8 p.m. to reserve a spot on the Wexner Center Plaza located next to the building at 1871 N. High St. The Wex’s Heirloom Cafe will be open until 8 p.m. that evening, and Mikey’s Late Night Slice and Jeni’s ice cream will also be available for the drive-in. Admission is free.