Making the Drive-In Mobile

I’m doing research for my book on networked film publics, I have become increasingly interested in alternative screening spaces, especially those that have been aided by or associated with social networking. In particular, I’ve done quite a bit of writing on the house party model associated with Robert Greenwald’s Brave New Films, where people gather at houses, churches, or community centers to watch one of Greenwald’s documentaries. One of my arguments in the book is that movie culture is not, in fact, becoming more privatized and domestic, but that instead we are witnessing the flourishing of new models of movie watching that entail complicated relationships between public and private space.

One of the alternative screening “sites” that I’m finding increasingly fascinating is the “MobMov,” or Mobile Movie, movement, a topic discussed by Scott Kirsner in a recent article in Variety.  In one sense, MobMov is a networked reinvention of the drive-in, with “chapters” organizing impromptu screenings of movies, often independent films without established distribution.  The makeshift “projection booths,” according to Kirsner entail “an LCD projector perched atop a car, a DVD player and an FM radio transmitter for the soundtrack.”  Unlike Film Snob, I’ve only been to a drive-in once (the product of my evangelical parents’ caution about going to such “passion pits”), but obviously there is something appealing about watching movies in the open air.  And the spontaneity associated with such screenings would seem to add to the enjoyment.

But I’m equally interested in the use of MobMov as a venue for promoting self-distributed and other ultra-indie productions.  As Kirsner mentions, Lance Weiler’s Head Trauma, currently sitting next to my DVD player waiting to be played, is slated to play at some MobMov chapters on October 20, and the animated film, We are the Strange is also scheduled to play before Halloween.  Obviously, these distribution and promotion models have a much longer history, as Kirsner’s example of Russ Meyer implies, but it’s still an interesting example of the ways in which the new indies have become so deeply connected to these networked film publics.

1 Comment

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