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The refreshment stand is closed forever
March 15, 2014 4:14 AM   Subscribe

Here are some compilations of old drive-in theater intermission shorts, obsolete advertising for vanished venues. Won't you please visit our celestial snack bar? The show starts in ∞ minutes. Hover over links for more detail.
1 (10m, corn dogs, Dairy Queen) - 2 (10m, Butch, Eskimo Pie) - 3 (7m, public displays of affection) - 4 (3m, cable TV)
5 (10m, PSAs) - 6 (10m, performing food!) - 7 (9.5m, racist indians, snack bar gnomes) - 8 (10m, Jay Ward-like cartoon roundup)
9 (4m, daylight savings time) - 10 (13m, shrimp rolls, local ads) - 11 (10.5m, Dr Pepper robbery, conformity, PSAs) - 12 (14m, Creepy the Clown and "Dutch Treete")
13 (10m, Optigan music spectacular!) - 14 (2m, EAT CANDY BARS) - 15 (9m, Swiss people are magical) - 16 (5m, assorted animation)
17 (17m, Snacks in Space)

Link 13 has music by "the Optigan." Here's a site devoted to that strange instrument, which is a rabbit hole to itself. Previously on the Optigan.
posted by JHarris (48 comments total) 75 users marked this as a favorite

#6 is the one our local drive-in, The Starlite, uses. It's so weird seeing it on such a small screen!
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:22 AM on March 15 [1 favorite]

I love this. Great post, JHarris.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:34 AM on March 15

Ages ago, between high-school and college, I worked a summer at a drive-in (The National, out on East Washington St. in Indianapolis. Now long gone). We were the red-headed step-child of the regional theater chain that owned us, so we were largely ignored by the home office and left to fend for ourselves. That included some...creative...income-augmentation at the box office (i.e. every third or fourth admission went into our staff beer fund, instead of the box office.)

Our projectionist had discovered in the vault of the projection room a treasure trove of old intermission shorts and trailers. He had spliced them together into one long reel and, on a warm summer night, after the last car had left, we all sat under the stars, drinking our beer, and watched all these wonderful shorts and trailers in our own private screening.

I managed to rescue a complete trailer for a re-release of Peter Pan. Been carrying it around with me ever since.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:42 AM on March 15 [4 favorites]

Let's all go to the lobby....
posted by Curious Artificer at 4:44 AM on March 15 [3 favorites]

Making this post stirred up weird feelings for me. For I have never been to a drive-in theater. There used to be two in my town of Brunswick, GA. The more well-known one, Sunset Drive-In, is now a Superfund site.
posted by JHarris at 4:46 AM on March 15 [1 favorite]

For I have never been to a drive-in theater.

That's amazing, and maybe that's a demarcation between generations. I practically grew-up at drive-ins. As a kid in the 60's, we had three drive-ins close to us, and my parents hauled us to one of them all the time. This was a time when drive-ins had amazing playgrounds beneath the big screen, to wear-out the kids before the movies started. The theaters near us had things like mini-roller-coasters and merry-go-rounds.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:52 AM on March 15 [5 favorites]

Just the word "refreshment" takes me back, probably back further than my own lifespan. Who says that anymore? "Would you like a refreshment?"

I'm so totally working that word into my vocabulary during my next wingding.
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:52 AM on March 15 [3 favorites]

The anti-daylight-savings-time one (which I think you have the wrong link for?) is one of the best ones. (Just projected it in 35mm the other day!)
posted by bubukaba at 4:56 AM on March 15 [1 favorite]

Whenever I make an evening of the World's Tiniest Drive-In™, in which I go roadfarming in my giant old pickup truck with a friend or two until we find a really good location somewhere, then park, plug the laptop into the stereo and set it up on the dash, and watch a well-curated film of great awe, wonder, and/or hilarity, I always start with a collection of promos collected from

Then, when we're all situated and eating our popcorn and sipping tall cups of raspberry shrub, I always kick off with the one little clip that, as a boy, filled me with enough excited anticipation to almost make my heart explode—the hep cat stylings of the bumper for the defunct General Cinemas chain.
posted by sonascope at 5:00 AM on March 15 [11 favorites]

Huh. It's not too surprising the drive-in theater industry would have been against daylight savings time when you think about it, but it still seems odd.
posted by Curious Artificer at 5:21 AM on March 15

Wow, I think I went to a drive-in once, in Muskegon or Grand Rapids, MI. I want to say 1972 or 73? I was very young. I recall the little sound box you had to put in the window of the car. I remember going to the snack bar for an ice cream and all the cars. And that's it. I don't remember the film. I probably fell asleep in the back seat at some point given how little I was. No car seats for 3 year olds in those days!

I've heard it said the Europeans are fascinated by how Americans seem to use red Solo cups for every party. And 1:45 into the first video, what do you have with one of those newfangled corn dogs from the 50s?

A soft drink in a red cup. And then red cups everywhere. It really is a tradition.
posted by droplet at 5:23 AM on March 15 [2 favorites]

That's amazing, and maybe that's a demarcation between generations.

People born ten years ago will likely have never been to a video arcade.

People born now will likely never step foot in a video store.
posted by JHarris at 5:25 AM on March 15 [2 favorites]

There are at most 5000 drive-in movie theaters left in the U.S. (if the searchable database at means anything.)

Recently NPR noticed that declining drive-in movie attendance was being used to bolster declining church-going attendance.

It's a possible new religion, where Purgatory means a chance to get a hotdog and a soda.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:32 AM on March 15

[Fixed "9" link]
posted by taz at 5:32 AM on March 15

There's still half a dozen drive-in theaters out here in western PA where things change a little slower than in the rest of the country.
posted by octothorpe at 5:33 AM on March 15 [2 favorites]

Even the idea of "intermission" is archaic.

It used to be fairly normal, in olden days, for movies to break for intermission. It hearkened back to stage theater, where the performers needed a break between acts, if for no other reason than to change costumes and scenery.

Live performances still do this, but it makes no sense whatsoever for movies. Films don't need a break.

But I like the idea, and I wish movie theaters would still do it. About half way through the movie I wish they would stop for 15 minutes. During that time I could get some more popcorn, or take a piss, or discuss the plot with my companions, or check my email on my phone.

Really... two hours is too long to sit in a darkened theater. I have shit to do. YouTube doesn't make me sit still that long. I need an intermission.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:49 AM on March 15 [4 favorites]

One of the many things I love about Bollywood movies is that most have an intermission. It breaks up movies in to acts nicely (provided that they're at all well made), and it gives people a much-needed chance to get up and pee (an important consideration when a movie is three+ hours long).
posted by Itaxpica at 7:00 AM on March 15 [1 favorite]

There's always money in the banana stand.
posted by Fizz at 7:24 AM on March 15 [2 favorites]

posted by JoeZydeco at 7:51 AM on March 15 [8 favorites]

Even the idea of "intermission" is archaic. It used to be fairly normal, in olden days, for movies to break for intermission. It hearkened back to stage theater, where the performers needed a break between acts, if for no other reason than to change costumes and scenery.

I was curious what the last films were to offer an official intermission and from this Straight Dope thread it looks like some films needed the break to let the projectionist change reels.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:55 AM on March 15

I cannot get over how unappealing that soft serve hot butter looks getting soaked into a hot king sized cup of popcorn in video number one. Gives me acne just thinking about it.
posted by oceanjesse at 8:08 AM on March 15

I grew up on a farm in north central Kansas and the drive-in was a weekend fixture in my early 1970s childhood. Every Friday night my parents would put me and my two younger brothers in our pajamas, then load us, our sleeping bags, a giant paper grocery bag full of homemade/homegrown popcorn and a small cooler of beer and pop into our white Plymouth (with red faux leather interior, natch) and off we would go to the nearest town with a drive-in. My brothers and I would make it part-way through the movie, then crash in a big puppy pile in the backseat. My parents (who still liked each other then) would sit in the front seat, smoking cigarettes, getting a slight buzz on, cracking jokes about the movie and talking about life. Idyllic times. Great post.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 8:13 AM on March 15 [3 favorites]

How do I hover on an iPad?
posted by jeffamaphone at 8:28 AM on March 15 [1 favorite]

Even the idea of "intermission" is archaic. It used to be fairly normal, in olden days, for movies to break for intermission.

I wouldn't go so far as to say it was normal. Intermissions tended to be the domain of the big, long spectacle film that ran long. For regular films, though, there weren't even starting times, for the most part. The reels simply started rolling when the theater opened, and kept running uninterrupted until closing. No intermissions. You just bought a ticket, and walked in in the middle of a film and stayed as long as you wanted.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:52 AM on March 15 [2 favorites]

These are great.

Question: did the color in these films look this vile back when they were new, or is that the result of deterioration over time?

I've always wondered that. You see the same thing in cookbooks from the 1950s (though I've always assumed that was due to the limitations of printing technology back then).
posted by escape from the potato planet at 9:16 AM on March 15

YouTube recommended this one to me from the 60s and 70s, featuring a somewhat surreal interview with an animated stomach who loves pizza, and a Peter Max (-inspired?) sequence set to easy-listening music.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 9:20 AM on March 15 [3 favorites]

No thread on movie intermissions is complete without a reference to Aqua Teen Hunger Force's tribute. (I guess there should be a warning for language and "graphic situations" here, don't let the kiddos watch!)
posted by jeremias at 9:28 AM on March 15 [6 favorites]

Let's all go to the lobby
Let's all go to the lobby
Let's all go to the lobby

And we're ne-ver coming back...
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:20 AM on March 15 [1 favorite]

These bring me back.
When I was a wee one my mom would take us to the Starlight Drive-In Theatre in Estevan, Saskatchewan. I remember watching classic Mat Helm movies and early spaghetti westerns.
Later as a teenager, me and the gang would fill up a car and go see Vincent Price dusk til dawn marathons.

I watched Vanishing Point at the drive in. There were all kinds of serious hot rods in the crowd. It was tire squealing dusty mayhem when the movie was over and people were leaving.

Intermission ads for munchies take on a rather compelling tone when you have been smoking joints all night. Good times.
posted by dougzilla at 10:44 AM on March 15 [2 favorites]

I'm pretty sure the version of Dances with Wolves (1990) that I saw had an intermission.

My best drive-in experience was sneaking into see the film "Hot Dog" (hidden under a blanket on the floor) with a guy that I had met while cruising on the El Camino. (I was driving down the road yesterday and saw the "cruising prohibited" sign and I realized that kids don't cruise anymore. I'm not sure how I feel about that. I guess its decline is related to the drive-in decline.)
posted by vespabelle at 10:51 AM on March 15

Question: did the color in these films look this vile back when they were new, or is that the result of deterioration over time?

Deterioration. The film dyes fade unevenly over time, thanks to being exposed to the harsh, bright lighting of the projector and thousands of runs through the projector, and splicing when damaged.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:05 AM on March 15 [3 favorites]

The fact that intermission rhymes with nutrition seems to be a thing in #16, explaining how all the things that the snack bar are ... good for you? Really? I'm really fortunate that everywhere I've lived I've been within local driving distance of a drive-in. We had one in my home town in Massachusetts and the one a few towns over was a favorite place for teens who wanted to drink. There were a few on the outskirts of Seattle that were huge parking lot affairs that were a little intimidating. And now there is one in the town right next to mine (calling itself the World's Smallest Drive-in, who knows?) that is in danger of closing because it can't make the conversion to digital. We go every weekend that I'm in town and they're showing something good. Even had a MeFi Meetup there once.
posted by jessamyn at 11:55 AM on March 15 [4 favorites]

How do I hover on an iPad?

To derail slightly into post construction theory:

To my knowledge, you can't. This is why the hover descriptions are echoed (although shortened) in the post text, to accommodate people on mobile platforms.
posted by JHarris at 12:38 PM on March 15

The fact that intermission rhymes with nutrition seems to be a thing in #16, explaining how all the things that the snack bar are ... good for you? Really?

Yeah, this seems to be before the idea of much of this stuff being "junk food" took hold.

From my trip through these, here are some points of note:

- The "Butch" animations used in a few of the sequences are odd. At the start of the first there's a card indicating the characters, two burglars who break into a house, run through a family's stuff, and are caught and sent to jail, are copyright Larry Reynolds, so I presume he cared about them and wanted to work them into some kind of franchise, although apparently it didn't go anywhere. I must say, it's an odd choice to show drive-in theater goers short films about house burglers. Now that I watch them again, I notice the title character Butch voguing in front of a mirror in one place, which causes me to wonder if he's intended to be read, to 60s sensibilities, as gay?

- #6, the performing foods animation, is a highlight, and is the only sequence that's of uniform content throughout. Pope Guilty noted in chat that they use that sequence at a local drive-in. #13, the one with the Optigan, has odd music, but it's darn catchy in places. The piece behind the minute count, however, is strange and startling.

- The interview-with-a-stomach "cartoon" in a couple of the videos includes an extremely weird piece of electronic audio noise to simulate hunger pangs. Watch for it.

- I am left wondering about the origins of the cartoons in #8, which are strikingly Jay Ward-ish in style, down to the music. That inventor character though, that is an atrocious attempt at a German accent. He even says the word invention with a w instead of a v, as "inwention," and says delicious as "deloocious."

- There are several segments that exhort viewers to go to church for chrissakes.

- The warning against "public displays of affection" in #3 is pretty funny.

- Two or three times in these clips there's a stop motion animation advertising snacks and Coke, which I call the "oh boy" short because the male character in it says that three times. It sounds like Corrine Orr is doing the voice! She also turned up in my last post, about computer-generated mockbuster movies. She also did voices for the English dub of the Speed Racer cartoon. She's still alive.

- Check it out! #15 turns out to have been posted by Dr. Philo Drummond of the Church of the Subgenius! I can't seem to get away from those guys.
posted by JHarris at 1:18 PM on March 15 [2 favorites]

Oh, and I'm pretty sure I haven't exhausted YouTube's store of these compilations. There are probably a few more I missed.
posted by JHarris at 1:31 PM on March 15

If anyone finds any Sack Cinemas bumpers, I will love you forever.
posted by pxe2000 at 1:37 PM on March 15

Striking how reasonable the portion sizes are in all these ads, isn't it? The popcorn is offered in perfectly decent-sized cups, with real butter, whereas these days I could eat myself sick with a "small" unbuttered popcorn from an AMC theater and still have half left over.* And the soda cups are as small as highball glasses.

* Not that I have done this. Recently.
posted by Countess Elena at 3:40 PM on March 15

One of my earliest memories is of my parents taking us to the drive-in. I was probably 7 or 8, my sister 5 or 6. We saw Elizabeth Taylor in Elephant Walk. For months, my nightmares involved elephants stampeding through our little house. In Central Texas.
posted by key_of_z at 3:46 PM on March 15

The disturbing 2011 animated short Follow the Sun harkens back to these. I didn't know, until now, what the title referred to — it seems it was an anti-DST slogan (as seen in the 9th linked video in the post).
posted by reprise the theme song and roll the credits at 5:52 PM on March 15

pxe2000, the "Prevues of Coming Attractions" bit I think is in one of them. It's also here, at the start, is that what you mean? Didn't Quentin Tarantino use that at the start of one of his movies?
posted by JHarris at 6:16 PM on March 15

There's an excellent documentary on Drive-Ins in the US, called Going Attractions.

I was lucky enough to see it at my local drive-in.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:51 PM on March 15 [3 favorites]

warning against "public displays of affection"

One of my fondest childhood memories is being 12 or 13 years old, rugged up in our '71 Kingswood, The Black Cauldron writ large on the gigantic screen in front of us, with a perfect view of the perfect breasts of the perfect girl having a perfect time in the car next to us.

Thank you, Herveys Range Road Drive-In, whatever you were actually called.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 10:36 PM on March 15

I notice that there is a surviving drive in within an hour's driving of me, the Jesup (Georgia) Drive-In. They're showing Mr. Peabody and The Lego Movie tomorrow, but I have to freight pizzas around town. I may just go there Thursday, depending on what's showing. Anyone else here in the area able to go?
posted by JHarris at 12:51 AM on March 16

You can do a sort of crappy hover on Android (4+ at least) by long pressing and looking at the title of the menu that pops up. This, however, only shows you the first N letters of the hovertext, where N = a very small number.
posted by LogicalDash at 2:46 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]

JHarris, ha! My local cinema (which has apparently closed) used to show that before the movies in the late 1980s.

I was actually talking about the bumpers for Sack Cinemas, a Boston chain that Loews bought out in the early '90s. They had an iconic (well, to those who attended their theaters, anyway) animated bumper in which a seated patron became the "S" in Sack. Someone mentioned it here on Cinema Treasures.
posted by pxe2000 at 6:01 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]

Is the picture used by this Facebook account the logo in question:

Have not found video of it.
posted by JHarris at 10:10 AM on March 17

That's the logo, yes.
posted by pxe2000 at 3:39 PM on March 19

Wikipedia says Sack Cinemas is a defunct Boston theater chain. It seems doubtful that the clip survives on the internet, but maybe there's a disused room in back of a theater somewhere, containing dusty reels of film on which are preserved the forgotten sequence?

I don't know, I don't live in Boston. If this is going to be put on the internet, probably someone on the inside of one of those old theaters is going to have to do it.
posted by JHarris at 5:03 PM on March 19

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