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LA’s Season in Hell: The Devil’s Night Drive-In

Audience at the Devil's Night Drive-In
Smog and starlets. A typical evening at the Devil’s Night Drive-in. Photo by Paul Gronner

by Viola Jaster | Design Director/W. Coast Contributor

If it weren’t for the swarms of pedestrians crowding the sidewalks and the innumerable neon signs lighting the would-be shadowed corners abandoned by the setting sun, Downtown LA could easily pass for a post-apocalyptic ghost town. It’s dirty. It’s dilapidated. It’s dangerous. It’s everything your mother warned you it would be and nothing like it’s glowingly portrayed on the silver screen.

Homeless people sit propped against graffitied walls and stare empty-eyed at their tattered shoes, while self-important nobodies walk past talking obnoxiously on their cell phones. Around you, every inch of visible space seems to be trying to sell you something. It’s as if the city were a black hole that feeds on everything pure and uncorrupted, and you’re being unwillingly sucked in just by looking at it.

It is in the heart of this bustling, befouled metropolis that the makeshift venue known as Devil’s Night Drive-In puts down stakes to project monthly displays of cult classic films for the ready and willing eyes of both dedicated fans and curious first-timers.

The venue itself is nothing special—it’s just a plain two-story parking lot—but the atmosphere created and recreated every month by both patron and proprietor is something to be noted.

Drive-in logoBacked by a veritably awesome soundtrack broadcasted over shortwave radio by virtue of Devil’s Night, the masses of inked-up moviegoers babble and binge on both homemade delights and those provided by Devil’s Night. Delivered via derby girl car-side service, vittles include your garden-variety movie theater fare: popcorn, nachos, hotdogs, and assorted beverages and sweets. As well as something listed as the “Chef Boyardouche Special,” but I’m not entirely sure what that consists of.

The combination of music, eats, and conversation supplied by the cornucopia of like-minded strangers, paired with the picturesque backdrop of historic buildings drenched in tasteful streams of light, make for a somewhat heavenly scene. The only thing that could possibly make the experience better is if the smoggy night sky, faintly aglow with pollution, were replaced with starry heavens.

But, alas, when the clock strikes the appointed hour and everyone retreats to the comfort of their respective cars and seats atop the tarmac, the surroundings become peripheral as the principal attraction (the movie) begins.

Devil’s Night prides itself on showcasing films that have a rabid, though limited, fan following, a luxury not afforded by the majority of movie theaters today—indoor or drive-in.

In fact, the entire operation is a complete contradiction. Within the confines of the world capital of pop culture production, they broadcast the alternative. With past showings that include Pulp Fiction, The Warriors, Donnie Darko, The Lost Boys, and Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Devil’s Night is like the Underground Railroad for subversive cinema: They take in virtually forgotten classics and give them a new home.

Audiences come for the experience of watching a movie outdoors and in the company of friends—a component of Americana missed out on by much of today’s youth—and leave either with a newly found admiration for some unconventional little cult classic that had previously alluded them or with a renewed love for an old favorite.

So go, park, eat, converse, and enjoy a nice bit of cinema under the stars—smog covered though they may be.

Devil’s Night Drive-In

240 W. 4th St. (at Broadway)
Second Floor Roof Parking Lot

Price: $10.00

Summer 2011 Schedule:

April 9 – Trainspotting

May 14 – Grease II

May 28 – Lolita (Kubrick)

June 11 – Dirty Dancing

June 25 – E.T. (Family Night)

July 9 – Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy

July 25 – People’s Choice (See website for choices)

August 27 – Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure

September 10 – The Usual Suspects

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