The Quasar in Nebraska is especially impressive. Run by a husband-and-wife team, it helps that she is an architect and cleverly designed the place for both efficiency and aesthetics. It includes furnishings from Kansas City’s beloved I-70 Drive-in and uses modern designs to make the film and the rest of the experience all they can be.
Back to the Drive-in is a follow-up to Wright’s earlier history of the venues, Going Attractions: The Definitive Story of the American Drive-in Movie. The previous documentary offers more detail on how drive-ins have both thrived and withered and is much more comprehensive. It also had a stronger narrative flow. The director was able to fit decades of history in a tight running time. She carefully explained why drive-ins got bulldozed because of seemingly innocuous developments like bucket seats, which blocked the sightlines.
“…Wright’s love of drive-in cinemas is contagious…”
With Back to the Drive-in, Wright clearly has more to tell, and the proprietors are appealing and candid about their labors of love. That said, some of the laments get a little redundant, and it’s a little disorienting as the film leaps across the country. The monotonous score isn’t much help. Locations as diverse as Texas, California, and Cape Cod start to blend together.
Nonetheless, Wright’s love of drive-in cinemas is contagious throughout Back to the Drive-in. The feature stands as a corrective to Avengers: Endgame directors Anthony and Joe Russo’s assertion that theater going is elitist. If anything, seeing a movie at a drive-in brings together people of all sorts who want to share the joy that can only come on a large, lighted screen.
"…enjoy the communal experience of seeing a motion picture without...getting close enough to catch deadly pathogens."