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Texas Architect on The Drive-In

25 Sep 2013

Texas Architect Drive-In

The official publication of the Texas Society of Architects weighs in on the Ballroom Marfa Drive-In:

“We hadn’t experienced weather as an object until we lived in Marfa,” said Michael Meredith, AIA, and Hilary Sample, AIA, founders of MOS. “The West Texas landscape naturally recedes into an infinite and scaleless distance, resisting a static sense of location or enclosure.” The design team thus sought a solution that would at once flow into the endless horizon and interrupt it.

Keep reading …

The Awl on our “suitably out-there Ballroom Marfa sort of drive-in”

3 Jul 2013

Anthony Paletta has a lovely essay in The Awl about the history of drive-in movie theaters that starts out with straightforward nostalgia and heartwarming stories about drive-ins using Kickstarter campaigns to stay afloat. And then because it’s The Awl it takes a turn down a more interesting path, looking at the role of drive-ins as “charnel houses for heavy petting,” their openness to imaginative programming, ties to church experiences and as sites of on-screen catharsis.

Robert Schuller, preacher behind Richard Neutra’s Crystal Cathedral and assorted other preacherly activities, held earlier services at a drive-in, advertising “The Orange Church meets in the Orange Drive-In Theater where even the handicapped, hard of hearing, aged and infirm can see and hear the entire service without leaving their family car.”

The cultural imaging of drive-ins on screen has therefore been a bit complicated. James Cagney hides out from the police in the Sun-Val drive in (watching a Gary Cooper movie on the development of aircraft carriers). John Travolta sets up playground equipment in Grease. The central romantic conflict in Coppola’s The Outsiders starts at the drive-in. In Back to the Future III, Marty McFly sets off at the Pohatchee Drive-in (where a marquee hilariously proclaims a program of “Francis in the Navy, Ma and Pa Kettle at Waikiki, and Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy.” Dead-End-Drive In, a superb Ozploitation film, imagines a dystopian future where distaff youth are confined in a drive-in and subjected to a constant barrage of trash cinema. Imagine putting up an electric fence around Burning Man and you’re partway to a screenshot. These youths, too, understood a thing or two about the drive in.

In the course of charting this history — a sort of companion timeline to the one offered by Lonn Taylor in his recent assessment of Ballroom’s own Drive-In in the Big Bend Sentinel — Paletta also connects the multifaceted drive-in experience of times past with the vision that informs our project out at Vizcaino Park.

Drive-ins were engaged in a constant battle of invention to attract customers before dusk and most importantly, to keep them eating. According to Segrave, nearly 90% of drive-ins had a playground by 1956. Dances would be held prior to screenings. Other carnivalesque enticements flourished; fireworks, petting zoos, and pony rides with the ultimate aim to extract as much concession revenue as possible from the narrow hours of marketable darkness.

Most programming is family-friendly, but frequently more varied than you’d think. Full Moon Drive-In in San Diego is also a spot to catch Driving Miss Daisy, Rebel Without a Cause, and American Psycho. The Admiral Twin in Tulsa reports banner attendance at its Outsiders and Rumble Fish screenings. Marfa, Texas, is getting in on the act with a suitably out-there Ballroom Marfa sort of drive-in.

Keep reading Paletta’s suitably imaginative essay in The Awl. Find out more about the Ballroom Drive-In by visiting the project space adjacent to the gallery here in Marfa, or visit the Drive-In website. Also stay tuned to David Beebe’s Twitter for updates on his own DIY drive-in, next door to the Boyz2Men taco trailer at Airstreamland.