There are only two movie theaters in the greater metro area where juvenile tradition suggests you hide your friends in the trunk. Dug in like outposts on the fringes of the Twin Cities, the Vali-Hi and Cottage View drive-ins promise something that none of the multiplexes can: the stars.
On a recent Saturday night at a packed Vali-Hi triple bill, you could feel the jolt of early summer. That feeling didn't translate to the action onscreen (sorry, Spider-Man). Yet it was hard to keep your eyes off the drive-in carnival: slack-limbed cliques mumbling commentary tracks on their way to the concessions stand, burgers sizzling on the grill, and the odd car slipping sheepishly, headlights off, toward the final spot in the back row. Vali-Hi, where you can see three shows for $7.50, allows tailgating; Cottage View, where a doubleheader costs the same, asks you to leave your hibachi at home. Yet both offer an experience no one should miss—a place where the blockbuster meets the block party.
For the less vehicularly inclined, the bevy of movies in Twin Cities parks provides the carnival minus the exhaust—and minus the cost of admission, even. So pack the trunk, load up the kids—but not in the trunk—and join in the communal tradition.
That being said, this year's lineup of Music and Movies in Loring Park (Mondays, July 16 through August 20) might have you wishing for the safety—and privacy—of a car. Stocked with soul-rattling desire, these Douglas Sirk melodramas might compel you to chain yourself to a tree, lest you be swept away in a whirlwind of emotion.
Sirk had a soft spot for orchestral crescendos, but the Walker's opening music lineup probably has a better beat. Among the highlights, local groovesters Black Blondie kick off the series on July 16, before the screening of All That Heaven Allows. And British electro sensation Metronomy set the stage August 6 for Written on the Wind. The latter is a tornado of blue-blooded angst that pits Robert Stack's swagger against Rock Hudson's tortured cool in a contest for the heart of a weathered Lauren Bacall. Though it opens and closes with a glorious windstorm, the most elemental force here is a murderous cha-cha. You've been warned.
While Loring Park is a handsome, groomed landscape, Stevens Square is a shaggier spot. Matching that mood is an eccentric summer lineup of adventures and comedies, running Wednesdays June 6 through August 1. Who can guess what inspired the curators to go from the depths of jovial geekdom (The Goonies, July 18) to the heights of Hollywood theatricality (On the Waterfront, August 1). However, the highlight might just be that spirit of blockbusters past, Ghostbusters (July 25). Bill Murray may not be a 3,000-year-old Sumerian shapeshifter, but his lack of commitment is positively ageless.
Fans of shoestring schlock and Cold War panic would do well to detour to the Summer Sci-fi series at the Bell Museum (Thursdays, August 16 through September 6). The retro-hysteria of classics like The Killer Shrews (August 23), and The Wasp Woman (August 30), might be the best way to emulate the drive-in tradition.
The cuddly pre-CGI puppetry of Wolfgang Petersen's grim children's fantasy The Neverending Story (June 21), is apt to tickle yet another nostalgic nerve. This tale of a child battling the onslaught of "nothingness" screens as part of the District Del Sol series (Thursdays June 28 through August 9), a mixture of family fare that also includes Steve Martin's matrimonial madcap Father of the Bride (July 26).
However, we must end on an adult note. Patrick's Cabaret, as part of its A Lot of Spirit series (Sundays, June 17 through July 8), is screening what might be the perfect film for open air and open minds. Robb Moss's doc The Same River Twice (June 24) catches up with a group of his friends who he filmed on a mostly naked 1978 rafting trip through the Grand Canyon. Moss's former radicals reflect on this footage from the vantage point of fully clothed middle age. Seen through this portal, the passage of time appears as terrifying and beautiful as the most treacherous whitewater rapids. Bring your folks!