News Column

Film Notes: Honda project aims to save drive-ins

August 23, 2013


Aug. 23--Drive-ins survived the introduction of television, cable, VCRs, DVDs, changing car sizes and movies few people wanted to see anywhere, but they may not be able to live through the pricey switch from film to digital projection.

That will cost an estimated $75,000 per screen and projector and, in an effort to help, Honda is sponsoring a national campaign to save drive-ins by raising awareness and supplying at least five digital projectors to lucky venues.

It will award that equipment to the drive-ins that get the most votes on a specially designated website. Among the ones in competition is the Evergreen Drive-In in East Huntingdon, Westmoreland County.

It's been around since 1947, when lumberman Donald J. Ruth and a business partner built a single screen on nine acres of grass. Today, it's operated by the Joe Warren family, who took over from the second set of owners in summer 1999.

Mr. Warren along with his wife, Debbie, and daughter Joie Gibbons and son Bryan Warren added two additional screens in spring 2002. They operate the Evergreen as a seasonal business, typically opening the first week of April and closing in late September or afterward and accommodating just under 500 cars.

Mr. Warren said of this summer, "It started out slow and then it turned into a pretty good summer for us with 'Despicable Me 2' and 'Monsters University.' A lot of family shows did very well for us, and 'We're the Millers' is really popular," with adults.

This weekend, "Monsters University" is paired with "Planes" on one screen, "We're the Millers" and "Heat" on a second, and "The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones" with "RED 2."

"We are planning on going to digital. How we're going to do it is a different story right now because we have three [projectors] to do. Winning one would help us tremendously, obviously. If we do not win this one, then we're just going to have to evaluate everything and see where we stand."

In addition to the projector upgrade, the change means the booth must be air-conditioned, minor to major electrical upgrades made and Internet service added, too.

Studios are changing how they get movies to theaters of all kinds -- first-run, second-run, drive-ins -- and switching from shipping 35mm films to digital distribution.

The Honda competition is a friendly one, among operators who often know each other and are in the same boat, and Mr. Warren says, "May the best person win."

Some drive-ins have already gone dark. The Kane Road Drive-in in Hopewell, open for 59 years, had a farewell tailgate party earlier this month.

Voting began this month and will end at midnight Sept. 9. The five winning venues will be revealed in September when celebrations will include a special screening of "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2."

The Evergreen has a link to the voting on its site at (you'll find it once you click to enter), and you can also vote for it or another favorite from Pennsylvania or elsewhere through Honda's site,

Happy birthday, Gene Kelly

If he were alive, Pittsburgh native Gene Kelly would be 101 years old today. The actor and dancer passed away in 1996, but his movies continue to provide joy to new and faithful fans alike.

You can mark the day with a screening of "Singin' in the Rain" at 7 tonight at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater, 5941 Penn Ave. It's part of East Liberty Live! and a "pay what you can" event. Go to for details.

Laughs on demand

"Hollywood and Wine," a comedy from the Pittsburgh-based Smithfield Street Productions (and Green Apple Entertainment) is available on demand. Check your cable provider for specifics.

Nicky Whelan portrays Diane Blaine, an aspiring actress who bears a striking resemblance to a washed-up tabloid queen, Jamie Stephens (also played by Ms. Whelan). She blames her rejection on her "TJS" curse, meaning Too Jamie Stephens.

Chris Kattan plays her boyfriend and co-worker who, thanks to a loan shark and bad bet, lands in major debt to a mobster. Turns out the mobster has a thing for Jamie Stephens, which leads to her less famous doppelganger trying to impersonate her.

The cast also includes Chazz Palminteri, Norm MacDonald, Vivica A. Fox, David Spade and Pamela Anderson. Movie is rated R for strong crude sexual content including dialogue, nudity, language and brief violence.

Don't try this at home

"Safety Last!" not ringing a bell?

It's the 1923 movie in which Harold Lloyd dangles from atop a skyscraper with nothing to hold on to but the hand of a clock.

You can see the silent movie, with live piano accompaniment by Philip Carli, at 2 p.m. Sept. 14 at Regent Square Theater, 1035 S. Braddock Ave. It's being presented in conjunction with the 32nd annual Three Rivers Film Festival.

Mr. Carli, based in Rochester, N.Y., has received standing ovations every time he's performed here. He created piano accompaniments for more than 50 films and has toured throughout North America and Europe.

Tickets, $9 for general admission and $5 for children 12 and younger, are available through

New festival on horizon

A new festival in late October will showcase films about the lives, stories and artistic expression of people with disabilities.

The first ReelAbilities Film Festival, being presented by JFilm: The Pittsburgh Jewish Film Forum and the FISA Foundation, will kick off Oct. 26 at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild.

It will continue through Oct. 29 at the Human Engineering Resource Laboratory at Bakery Square, Rodef Shalom Congregation and Frick Fine Arts Auditorium on the University of Pittsburgh campus. Venues were chosen for their accessibility.

Titles of the seven films selected will be available at in September.

JFilm is a program of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh and FISA Foundation is committed to improving the lives of women, girls and people with disabilities in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Honoring Blanchett, Fiennes

The Film Society of Lincoln Center announced Thursday that Cate Blanchett and Ralph Fiennes will be the subjects of this year's NYFF Gala Tributes.

The tribute to Ms. Blanchett, starring in "Blue Jasmine," will be Oct. 2, with the salute to Mr. Fiennes Oct. 9 in conjunction with the showing of his film, "The Invisible Woman."

The tributes celebrate the work of individuals who have made significant artistic contributions to film culture in the past and will continue to do so in the future. Past honorees include Pedro Almodovar, David Cronenberg, Nicole Kidman and Richard Pena.

Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: or 412-263-1632. Read her blog:


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