Tom Whiteside makes it his business to air his love of experimental and archival film—literally. His Durham Cinematheque series showcases filmic odds and ends at various unusual venues, often outdoors, in the Bull City, including a summer screening series, Movies in the Park, at Durham Central Park.
Now, Whiteside is putting his unique twist on the drive-in movie experience, which has been missing in Durham since the Starlite shut down. His new Lakewood Drive-In kicks off Friday, June 19, at the Scrap Exchange in the Shoppes at Lakewood shopping center.
"It just looked like a perfect place to do a drive-in," Whiteside says of the parking lot beside the Scrap Exchange, which will be able to fit about 40 cars for this gathering, though cyclists and walkers are also welcome.
Whiteside got together with the Scrap Exchange, along with Skip Elsheimer of the A/V Geeks, to discuss playing 16mm films on the grounds. "Skip and I have been keeping films out of the landfill for 30-some years," Whiteside says. "So we fit the mission of what the Scrap Exchange does, too." The first show is titled "Bring Your Car to the Movies," with Whiteside and A/V Geeks cohort K. Sean Finch (Elsheimer will be in Houston for Home Movie Day) unspooling car-related cinematic curiosities for 90 minutes.
They're truly going old-school for the drive-in, offering popcorn, drinks and other refreshments for purchase, and even getting an FM transmitter, so that cars can get film sound through their radios. (There will also be speakers up front.) The drive-in recurs with the themes "Great Big World" (July 17) and "Dang It's Cold!" (Sept. 18). Elsheimer will be back in town to play clips for those.
Along with giving the Triangle an interesting night at the movies, Whiteside is also summoning locals to a landmark spot in Durham's movie-going history. "Back at the very beginning of the 20th century, it was the end of the trolley line," he says. "The company that built the trolley line built Lakewood Amusement Park—at the end of the line, you give people a place to go to. And that was the site of the first movie show in Durham that we know of, in 1903. It was shown in a tent at the amusement park. So that's kind of a neat bit of history."This article appeared in print with the headline "Auto Motive."