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Thursday, June 19, 2008
At the (Motor-Vu) Drive-In
I'm a big fan of drive-in movie theaters and there's a great one out in Newberg called the 99-West. While they've enjoyed a resurgence in popularity over the past decade they're still few and far between. Oregon has hundreds of movie theaters but only four or so drive-ins still operating. Besides the 99 West, there's supposedly one out in La Grande and another in Lebanon, all too far from Portland for a jaunt there and back on a boring Saturday night. There's also the Motor-Vu in Dallas, a small town located 20-minutes outside of Salem.
It's known for having the largest movie screen in Oregon. I've been meaning to go down there and check it out for a few years now but I've never been able to convince anyone to make the long drive with me. With nothing better to do last Saturday, I finally made the journey. Here's what finally convinced me: they were screening a Incredible Hulk/Baby Mama double-feature. That's inspired programming, right there.
The drive from Salem passes along a scenic stretch of the Willamette and the Motor-Vu sits in the middle of a large patch of farmland. Visitors pass under the screen and the parking area is almost double the size of the one in Newberg. The snack bar is filled with '50s decor and they've got White Castle burgers on the menu. Oddly, the bar sits in the middle of the property, which blocks the view of around a sixth of the drive-in's potential audience. I guess the owners assume that most of the audience up front wouldn't make the 100-yard trek if it were located all the way in the back.
Being a liberal Portland wuss with limited knowledge of what lies along the I-5 beyond Salem and Eugene, I expected to find a crowd of methheads and families along the lines of Cletus' brood on The Simpsons. While I was one of the few people there in a foreign-made automobile, the crowd was similar to the low-key, suburban one that turns out for movies at the 99 West. I was all geared up for a night of culture shock but left disappointed.
About half of the crowd stuck around for Baby Mama and I guess it's a testament to how strong my gag-reflex for half-assed Hollywood comedies is that I made it through the whole thing. As for The Incredible Hulk, I actually prefer Ang Lee's version. Edward Norton's Bruce Banner is an improvement over Eric Bana's but the action sequences were actually weaker than the over-the-top ones that Lee cranked out. At no point does the Hulk ride a jet into the stratosphere or fling a missile at a helicopter after catching it in mid-air. And if you're ever going to film an epic battle-royale between two comic book monsters in the middle of New York, it helps to stage it somewhere besides a vacant lot and the street outside the Apollo Theater.