Eakins Oval Pop-Up Drive-In Theater
Here’s yet another reason why I freaking love Philadelphia: The Eakins Oval Pop-Up Drive-In Theater.
So here’s the deal: Eakins Oval is a traffic circle on the northeast end of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. And, usually, it’s a pretty busy thoroughfare. It’s right in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (the steps of which were the setting for one of the training montages in “Rocky”). It’s also a small park area anchored by the gorgeous Washington Monument fountain. The southeast portion of the oval is a parking lot (which is good to know if you plan on visiting the museum. This is what it usually looks like (as seen from the Art Museum steps.
This fall, The Awesome Fest arranged to take over Eakins Oval and convert it to a drive-in movie theater on a series of Friday nights. Double-features are planned, and high-end food trucks come in to handle concessions. They even have the Philly Roller Girls roller derby team doing car-service concessions. Tickets are $20 apiece if you come by car, but lawn-seating is free.
Last Friday night, the double-feature was “King Kong vs. Godzilla” and “Pacific Rim.” The former holds a soft spot in my heart as a childhood favorite, and all of us were looking forward to seeing the latter for the first time.
We walked to the Oval with out lawn chairs and blankets, bought some hot chocolate and tater tots from the Tot Cart, and settled in for the movie. Awesome Fest’s Josh Goldbloom came out to welcome the sizeable crowd with the brief introduction to the drive-in movie theater concept itself, as well as a short talk-up on both movies.
Then a guy dressed as Godzilla came from behind the movie screen and fought with a guy dressed as an ape.
Then, “King Kong vs Godzilla” flickered to life on the screen. I’ve seen this dozens of times, but it was a special thrill to watch it in this setting with my two boys. This is definitely a movie-watching experience that is enhanced by watching it as pert of an audience. Kids thrilled at Godzilla’s first on-screen appearance, and adults guffawed at the unintentional campiness that lies at the heart of the movie’s charm.
And “Pacific Rim”? All four of us were captivated by that one. We hadn’t seen it yet, and that movie had us riveted from the very first scene. It just came out on DVD and Blu Ray, and I strongly recommend it. The female lead (Rinko Kikuchi) was particularly noticeable as a rare occurrence in action flicks — a character that has integral importance in the story, rather than being eye candy. The plot was tight. The action sequences were unbelievably well done, and the moments of comic relief were added at just the right moment (and in just the right doses).
It was well past midnight by the time the Guigars walked home — chattering all the way about the movies and what a great experience it was to see them together on the lawn of Eakins Oval on a brisk October night.
Awesome Fest has several more Friday nights lined up (shows start at 7:30 p.m.):
• October 25: Grease & The Blob
• November 1: The Car & Christine
• November 8: Arachnophobia & Big Ass Spider!
• November 22: Planes, Trains & Automobiles & Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
… and all because a group of creative Philadelphians looked at Eakins Oval and said “what if…”