Some developments in the history of cinema have, thankfully and understandably, stuck. Examples? Talkies, color and the abolishment of puritanical prohibitions against screen nudity. A-plus, and thank you.

Others, fads like 3D (which should re-disappear any day now), Odorama, lambada movies and Jean-Claude Van Damme, have, to the benefit of us all, largely faded away.

But sometimes, some of the best things about the movies start to fall out of favor, to our cultural detriment. The world is better with single-screen art houses (like the late Movies on Exchange Street), director Monte Hellman, independent video stores

And drive-in movies.

Once ubiquitous, flickering cinematic oases splashing the American countryside with Hollywood’s finest (and often sleaziest) imagery, the drive-in has shrunk in the United States from a peak of some 4,000 theaters to less than 500. Those that survive do so through community loyalty, determined ownership and some creative programming.

Which is where the upcoming Space Gallery night at the Saco Drive-In comes in.

The venerable Saco Drive-In (opened in 1939) is recently under new management — and I mean new, with UMaine students Ry Russell, Tyler Wells and Patric Brophy taking over the operation of the southern Maine movie landmark this season. And the old place is feeling, well, young again.

“The response from the community’s been great,” Russell said. “Revenue is up 20 percent over last year.”

Russell credits Mainers’ loyalty for that, along with a dedication to economy (it’s $15 per carload for admission) and variety in programming.

“With a single screen, you can’t please everyone every night,” he said. “But by bringing in different things, our goal is to get everyone to come out at least once.”

As part of that goal, the Saco Drive-In is teaming up with the indie movie showcase Space Gallery to bring in two beloved, retro and appropriately space-themed films — “E.T.” and “Aliens” — for a double feature Aug. 26-28. Space will curate a mix of local music before and between the films for audience enjoyment.

Portland film fans (and families) can load up the car and watch under the stars as Elliott and E.T. fly past the moon and Sigourney Weaver blasts the bejeezus out of some less-adorable E.T.s. It’s a way to support a beloved local business, revisit a unique (and disappearing) cinematic experience and, oh yeah, just have a great night at the movies.

Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.


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