Backseat Cinema

When the founders of Autocinema Coyote decided they wanted a drive-in movie theater in downtown Mexico City, they faced more than a few challenges.

“There were people who didn’t believe it,” David Adler, partner and founder of Pacific Beach’s Full Moon Drive-In, told the Guardian on Monday. 

The Autocinema met swift and unprecedented success. During its brief nine months in operation, the drive-in sold out every screening and gained over 50,000 likes on Facebook. “It was very popular in Mexico,” Adler said. “But then the tenant saw that it was getting so popular so they decided to build something on the property. It was a nightmare [laughs]. So we partnered up with them to open this one here in San Diego.”

The Full Moon Drive-In opened earlier this year at the Pacific Beach Middle School parking lot, and is the first drive-in theater to open in San Diego since 1966. Accordingly, movie lovers countywide have crawled from the woodwork to participate in the drive-in.

“We are all big movie fans of course, and we realized the need for a real life social experience,” Adler said. “We always try and do something different. For ‘E.T.’ we gave everyone Reese’s Pieces as they were driving in. For ‘Top Gun’ two of our staff members dressed up as Goose and Maverick. It creates an atmosphere where movie fans can talk about movies in real life.”

The Full Moon staff decides which movies to screen solely based on the amount of requests they receive on their website, Facebook and Twitter pages. If a film is requested enough times, and the theatre is able to obtain the screening permit, the movie is added to the schedule.

“We think it’s part of the experience, because you can’t go to the AMC and say ‘Hey can you guys play this movie? I want to see it on the big screen again,’” Adler said. The most popular movies, according to Adler, are those that seem to foster audience participation.

“One of our biggest nights — it was actually a weekend,” Adler said. “The first night we showed the original ‘Italian Job’ from the 1970s. We had, like, 100 Mini Coopers at the event, which was pretty cool. And the night after that we showed ‘Gremlins.’ I think that was my favorite.”

This weekend, the Full Moon will host a special Halloween event geared toward family audiences.

“It’s basically more for kids,” Adler said. “We know that most young adults won’t necessarily want to go to the movies on Halloween weekend. So we’re showing ‘Corpse Bride’ on Friday and then ‘Shrek’ on Saturday. There will be trick-or-treating and face-painting and everyone will be in costume.”

But not all of the Full Moon’s screenings are kid-friendly, as this month’s calendar features a range of classics such as “Casablanca,” “Animal House” and “Easy Rider” — all presented as they might’ve at the original drive-ins of the ‘60s, complete with in-car snack delivery.

“We like the retro feel,” Adler said. “We have the classic cars, the concession stands and everyone is in uniforms. We’re creating something new by bringing back something great from the past, which is pretty cool.”

Screenings at the Full Moon Drive-In are every Friday and Saturday night. $20 per car, or $10 for walk-ins. Visit fullmoondrivein.com for more information.

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