As the sky went to black Saturday evening, hipsters, popcorn, burgers, a classic hearse and an FM radio station channeling “Harold and Maude” came to life at Electric Dusk Drive-In. The downtown Los Angeles drive-in theater, open year-round, began its third movie screening as part of its summer series, featuring director Hal Ashby’s 1971 classic cinematic endeavor.
The Electric Dusk Drive-In is not a ’50s drive in with carhops. However, once the digital ticket has been scanned, the grill is going and customers are guided at the perfect angle into the huddle of cars. The film tells the story of the blossoming friendship between an antisocial young man and a vibrant 79-year-old woman, both of whom enjoy attending funerals for fun. The film matches perfectly with the quirky setting. It is hard to expect anything less than a cult classic, as Electric Dusk’s summer schedule features films such as “Dirty Dancing,” “Pulp Fiction” and “Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
In one corner of the drive-in theater is a snack shack, complete with an outdoor grill and a classic and inefficient popcorn machine. Getting popcorn requires making small talk with the popcorn machine employee for fifteen minutes; however, the leisurely pace of the snack bar is all part of the experience. In order to maximize snack-purchasing possibilities without worrying about the cost of admission, customers can also pay ten dollars and enter a raffle to win free admission for a subsequent visit.
Couples and friends return to their cars or lawn seating to curl up in their quilts. Audience members who backed into their spots and cleaned out their trunks successfully create the ultimate viewer experience. Others settle to sit in the regular car seats. Intermission provides an opportunity for audience members to stretch their legs and readjust. A thematically appropriate hearse in the back of the venue proves popular for various photo opportunities for dedicated “Harold and Maude” fans.
Though the chances of winning the raffle are slim and the food does not vary from standard movie theater cuisine, the undeniably classic movie yields an overall memorable experience. Coming prepared with blankets, pillows and snacks to avoid the line is encouraged, although a little fraternizing in the popcorn line on a warmer night is not a terrible night spent in L.A.
Electric Dust Drive-In is located at 1000 San Julian Street, just off the 5, 10, 101 and 110 freeways in downtown L.A. Doors open 90 minutes before screening begins. The next screening is May 17 featuring “A Streetcar Named Desire” at 8:30 p.m. Tickets range from $8.50 to $50 depending on desired parking location.