posted by Michael Zoldessy on August 3, 2007 at 10:15 am

Bitter about the price of your local theater? Sick of all that noise from annoying patrons? Want to go to a place where you can see a quality film on the big screen?

With all these expectations, why give your local theater a chance when you can DIY it! A new craze called MobMov (short for mobile movie) is catching like wildfire all over the world. Clubs of people in different cities bring a projector to a random location containing a large wall, usually an abandoned warehouse, and literally create a drive-in experience. I’d never even heard of it before I read this story in the San Francisco Chronicle.

The crescent moon over the Bay Bridge was a stunning twinkle of lights through the windshield, but all eyes were sharply focused on the flickering projections on the warehouse wall. We’re parked in a vacant lot in what must remain an undisclosed S.F. location. We are MobMov for the next few hours – a brief and nerdy flash mob of drive-in enthusiasts gathered to view the night’s feature presentation from the comfort of our bucket seats.

With bags of popcorn and Hot Tamales on the dashboard, about 15 cars nestle like sardines and tuned to the same radio frequency – the short-term sound system that serves as the modern-day speaker attached to the window ledge from drive-ins of years ago. The other reminder that this isn’t 1957: As we prepare for the feature presentation, the projected image is the familiar interface of Microsoft Windows, and the whole event is being fueled by the car battery of a Toyota RAV4.

Has anyone been to these? Does it indeed preserve the experience like they say it does?

It doesn’t look like they’re building many more drive-ins so this may be your best bet. Imagine all the work that goes into building and operating a movie theater. All so we the people can have those great memories. With something like this, all that can be achieved but with so few materials.

If there isn’t a MobMov near you, create one! I’m going to give it a shot and tell you how it goes. Plus, the concept of a Guerilla Drive-In is just too cool.

(Thanks to Ryan Thomas for providing the photo.)

We encourage you to share your thoughts on the subject. For comments on the article or the blog itself, feel free to email me. We’re also open to any suggestions for future columns!

Comments (22)

KenLayton on August 3, 2007 at 11:43 am

And absolutely none of these are authorized licensed showings. What’s worse is these are all videos and not even real film projection.

scorpio1949 on August 3, 2007 at 6:53 pm

Yes these are unauthorized, the picture has to be very poor and etc..I will continue to support my local theatre with great surround sound and quality picture…

MiltonSmith on August 3, 2007 at 7:42 pm

I don’t know, sounds like a great idea for movies that don’t get shown at your local cineplex. Hard to find theaters that show older movies, which this sounds perfect for. If there is a market for it and its not being filled, someone is going to fill it.

alex35mm on August 4, 2007 at 1:17 pm

I did this just the other day in my front yard, of corse I’m for film but everyone from the block liked watching Ghostbusters outside.

TheaterBuff1 on August 5, 2007 at 11:57 pm

As a lifelong theater buff I have a confession to make, and that is that I’ve never been to a drive-in movie, EVER. The closest I ever came was when I was hitchhiking somewhere out in Middle America back in the early ‘70s, and took a break from hitchhiking to watch EASY RIDER from start to finish that was playing at a drive-in somewhere, without hearing the sound of it, of course, and from the discomfort of standing on a gravelly highway shoulder.

But now as I think back, I can’t picture enjoying a movie very well when viewing it through a windshield from the confines of a car. I mean, talk about a really misanthropic way to view a movie! Seeing a movie sitting in the grass or on sand out under the stars (that is, the REAL ones in the sky) I could readily understand. But from inside a car? Ugh! How awful that must’ve been like!

But, like I say, I never actually was to a drive-in, so I can’t say that for a fact — while I do feel oddly nostalgic about the first time I saw EASY RIDER and how I did.

CatherineDiMartino on August 7, 2007 at 1:51 pm

Per David Burris’s and Milton’s comments above, I found this on MOB MOV’s website:

“It is very likely that by following these directions, you will break expensive things, void any and all applicable warranties, and may even risk personal injury. Please always use your best judgment and skip any directions that sound too complicated or dangerous”

Do you really want to try this? Do you want to violate copywrite laws? Do you want to have all sorts of legal complications like not having a permit from your city to do this. Would you like to void the warranty on your car?

KJB2012 on August 7, 2007 at 2:36 pm

Stealing other peoples property is NOT cool. I’ve never been to a Drive-In. I don’t even see why watching a movie in my car would be cool. But at least real Drive-Ins were screening films legally. This sounds like the films are being pirated.
I don’t think Cinema Treasures should allow itself to be used by any group which uses pirated films.
Maybe I’m wrong, I hope so, and MOB MOV is legally licensing the films it screens. I hope that is the case.

MiltonSmith on August 7, 2007 at 5:29 pm

Well, if no one else is doing it. What’s the big deal? From the sounds of it, no one is being charged to see these movies. These are mostly movies no one is showing in any theaters (and highly unlikely to be showing any time soon. Sure, the legality of the whole thing is cloudy at best. Like I said before, there is obviously a market for this type of thing and since it isn’t being filled by normal means. Others are taking it into their own hands.

scorpio1949 on August 7, 2007 at 7:19 pm

Well that is like saying that since I have a product on my shelves in my store that is not selling and shows no promise in the near future of selling, then it is ok for someone to remove it and use it. What the “big deal” is that these are valuable products whether or not they are showing in the local cinema. I am sorry but I cannot justify these people taking this into their own hands….As far as the legality being cloudy at best? Wow I don’t think there is much cloudiness in this regard…I think it is very clear that you don’t show movies to mass audiences without paying royalties…Look at the beginning of DVD’s and see what it says about public exhibition of copyrighted films…that is pretty clear. Maybe these people ought to form a club and work with a distributor to get a deal that would be workable. I know Walla Walla, Washington has done this for several years (legally) downtown and people love it.

TheaterBuff1 on August 8, 2007 at 12:35 am

I seriously hope no one feels I was stealing anything that time way back in the early ‘70s when I was out hitchhiking somewhere in the Midwest and took a break from hitchhiking to watch EASY RIDER from start to finish (without sound) on a distant drive-in movie screen from the viewpoint of standing on a gravelly highway shoulder. For it just seems to me that back then if you wanted to see EASY RIDER or any other movie at that time without paying for the experience, that was one perfectly legitimate way to do so — the price being, you didn’t get to see it with sound, with the screen close enough so that you could make out every essential detail and nuance or from the comfort of sitting down. And just to follow through on that story, not long afterwards I saw EASY RIDER in a regular theater — the Crest Theatre in Philadelphia, PA (and with sound this time around!) — and was most happy to pay to see it.

But now as for somebody creating a makeshift drive-in movie set-up, and showing copyrighted movies to people for free in this manner, and without permission from the copyright holder to do so, that is clearly wrong and should be corrected. But corrected how? For what Catherine DiM suggests is a bit too austere if you ask me. Particularly when on one level it should be viewed as very flattering to the makers of the movie that people actually want to show and see it. And however they do.

For keep in mind that in the realm of REAL filmmaking — and I do stress that word REAL — there’s other payoffs besides just making money. Sometimes much much bigger payoffs are to be had. With REAL films, that is. At the same time, with REAL films, just as it’s true with all others, they, too, DO cost money to make, and makers of REAL movies have to eat just like everybody else. And it was through my own recognition of this back when I was younger that I was most happy to later pay to see EASY RIDER, rather than in a way that, if everybody did the standing on the shoulder thing, Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper and Jack Nicholson would’ve starved (hey, it was bad enough they didn’t get served in that redneck diner!)

But in terms of how REAL filmmakers can get the money they’re entitled to, when it comes to these MobMovs keep this in mind: Money IS being spent to make these MobMovs possible. Somebody has to pay for the projection equipment. Somebody has to pay for the electricity — even when it’s from a car battery — to run this equipment. Somebody has to pay for the gas to get the projection equipment from Point A to Point B plus the cost of the vehicle used. And if it’s a makeshift drive-in movie set-up, those coming to see the movies in their cars have to pay for gas to get from Point A to Point B. So money IS being spent in the course of this. And add to this the hassle of the do-it-yourself aspect, which entails those putting on the show for free not getting paid. And in today’s economy how many people can afford to keep that up for long? To which I say, well then why not find a way to redirect all this money being spent somehow, plus cut out the do-it-yourself hassle, to come up with a much better movie experience for all?

As I said earlier, I’ve never been to a drive-in movie, but just in imagining it it hardly seems it would be the best way to see a movie. And these days, with the astronomically high cost of gas, including all the senseless wars with people needlessly dying to acquire more of it, our own U.S. soldiers getting killed particularly, how meaningful could it be going to a drive-in movie in today’s world with that reality as the backdrop — whether we’re talking an established or a makeshift one? For why not think in terms of money now being spent on gas to go see a MobMov for “free” being redirected so that it goes into the pockets of the filmmakers instead. How to do that? Run movies in regular movie theater settings where people don’t have to spend money on gas to get to them. And where, for just a wee fraction of what they otherwise would spend on gas, they can spend to see that movie instead, AND….with additional money left over to spare to spend on popcorn and other snacks. How revolutionary!

For as I see it, with this MobMov business, sooner or later those putting on these exhibitions for “free” are going to find themselves begging for donations to keep them going. And those going to see them for “free” (particularly in the case of makeshift drive-in movie set-ups) might come to the realization that what seems “free” really isn’t after all…

drjitters on August 9, 2007 at 11:12 pm

Ladies and Gentlemen, GENUINE DRIVE-IN THEATERS are still here! If you’ve never been to a drive-in theater, treat yourself! Look up the one nearest you via this website or check and SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL DRIVE-IN! They have made a comeback and it’s an experience you won’t forget. Bring a lawnchair if you want to.

The Mobmov/Guerilla Drive-In experience is not legally cloudy at best, it’s illegal. Still I admire their pluck to some degree, but don’t give up on a real drive-in experience. Road trip!

TheaterBuff1 on August 10, 2007 at 12:00 am

Seeing a movie on a big screen out under the stars I can readily understand. It’s just seeing a movie through a windshield from the confines of a car that I don’t get. I know that outdoor movies are popular in Australia, but of those I’ve seen — in TV coverage — everyone’s sitting in chairs out in the open air and there’s not a car in sight. And watching a movie from the viewpoint of sitting in the grass or sand it seems could be even better. I know they’ve done that sort of thing on the beach in Wildwood, New Jersey using a giant inflatable screen, but I haven’t been to any of those showings as of yet. In that case I’m not real keen on the idea of a public beach being momentarily roped off and privatized and turned into a business. But in regards to legality in showing copyrighted material, so far as I know they’re in the legal clear on that front, fully licensed to do so as it were, and Hollywood fully getting the royalties it’s entitled to.

richfife on August 29, 2007 at 12:12 pm

Latecomer comment from the host of the Berkeley MobMov: I only show Public Domain films or licensed, negotiated films (Like “Thank you for Smoking” last year). We show in a public space with the full approval and occasional presence of the police. Nothing legally cloudy or even translucent in the slightest.

TheaterBuff1 on August 29, 2007 at 10:33 pm

Sounds great! With the only possible exception being if by chance you charge people money to enter upon that public space while you’re showing movies there. Which is what they do in Wildwood, N.J.’s case. For although it can be reasonably argued there might not be any way around having to charge customers to come see a movie in a public setting (it costs money for this and that, after all, and in Wildwood’s case they’re showing first run mainstream films), there are vultures who watch for those type situations and then use them as excuses to acquire and privatize that public place permanently. And so that’s the big problem with that.

richfife on August 30, 2007 at 2:44 pm

I don’t charge, but I have a donation jar out. It’s a hobby, and when I get tired of it or it obviously jumps the shark, I’ll stop doing it.

TheaterBuff1 on August 31, 2007 at 2:43 am

That sounds perfectly reasonable. Concessions can also be sold to help defray the costs. And of course you can always seek out potential sponsors. At the same time I don’t think it’s wrong to be sensitive to nearby regular or drive-in theaters that exist in the area who perfectly understandably would get incensed if you’re showing to people for free what they themselves must charge patrons money to see. But they, too, of course, have the same options to look to that you do. Plus, if they’re showing mainstream films and you’re not, they retain that competitive edge.

Another thing to consider, since they’re already fixed in place as a thing of permanance, they don’t have to go through the time, labor and cost of setting up and dismantling each time they show a film the way you do. And because they’re not showing films in a public place they have much greater authority to control audience behavior. So that gives them a competitive edge, too.

In terms of bringing MobMovs to areas where there are no theaters around anywhere, I think they can serve as great lead-ins to bringing permanent theaters to that area. In other words, they’re a great means to feeling out that area’s potential market. If the makeshift movie exhibiting set-ups get well received, a theater of permanence becomes inevitable. If not, the MobMov equipment can then easily be transported to another location to see if that place holds potential, and at a minimum of expenditure, no whole buildings having to be torn down and new ones built in the process. So in that sense I very much like the MobMov concept.

richfife on August 31, 2007 at 10:01 am

When I started doing the MobMov, there were no functioning drive-ins within 40 miles:

View link

Since I started, one has reopened just over 20 miles away:

View link

View link

It’s entirely possible that the buzz over the MobMov is part of the reason for the reopening (I’m probably flattering myself here). Nevertheless, I don’t see us having much of a negative impact on each other. I do one show ever 2-3 weeks, they do 4-6 every night.

TheaterBuff1 on September 1, 2007 at 1:45 am

It seems to me that MobMovs is a great way to get exposure for films that established theaters refuse to exhibit, the risks being too high that it would be financially practical for them to exhibit them. And not because they’re bad films per se, but because paying patrons like to have some degree of certainty of what they’re paying to see before they pay to see it. But who can possibly object to seeing a movie if it doesn’t cost them anything to see it? And if the reception to the free film is very good, MobMovs can actually be seen as performing a good service for the established theaters by identifying for them movies that audiences take well to. And without it costing them anything. It’s yet another basis for seeing MobMovs as very positive.

MPol on July 12, 2008 at 10:22 am

The MobMov idea has caught up a little bit here in our area too, and it seems like such a cool idea. I remember reading/hearing about a couple of experiments like that not too far from where I live—and it seemed to work. Unfortunately, howver, I haven’t heard or read anymore about this neat idea. Outdoor movie programs, however, that’re free to the public, and amount to the same thing, seem to be taking hold more and more, which is good. The Movies by Moonlight program, where there’s a movie every Friday night at the Rowes Wharf Boston Harbor Hotel during the summer months, Friday Night Flicks at the Hatchshell, the Comcast-sponsored outdoor movies program in Somerville, and, more recently, an outdoor film program in at the Devotion School Park in Brookline, have become more popular. Wonderful movies, including WSS, have been shown at the other outdoor theatre programs, although I haven’t been to the outdoor movies program in Brookline yet. If you go to an outdoor film program, where it’s very woodsy, or near the water, or anywhere, it’s good to bring bug-dope, especially because mosquito bites today can be more than just a bit of an irritating annoyance, if one gets the drift. One big disadvantage to outdoor movie or MobMov programs is that if it rains or whatever, they have to cancel the film.

I’ve also seen the film West Side Story outdoors on at least 3 occasions—and it’s really cool. The sounds of the city in the background seem to add a whole new dimension to an already-great classic film.

MPol on July 12, 2008 at 4:20 pm

Here’s a question, though, TheaterBuff1: Wouldn’t the MobMov idea eventually help to kill off the movie theater business? DVD and video have helped do just that. Also, the disadvantage of such an idea as MobMov is that it seems like it can only be done during the warm weather, so how well it would work here in the northeast during the colder winter months, when people don’t go outdoors at night much, if at all. Also, if it’s raining, or an electrical storm is happening, outdoor movies have to be cancelled.

MPol on June 13, 2009 at 3:49 am

Come to think of it, the posters here that’re mentioning copyright infringement issues and risky of personal injury or worse have a point when it comes to MOBO Movies. It’s too risky.

ltquinn on September 22, 2010 at 3:15 pm

Okay, I really don’t understand some of the comments I’ve read on this blog. It definitely shows that these people have not bothered to read the website, or they would know that:

1)Most of these chapter operators are obtaining public exhibition licenses or are showing public domain films. So they are IN FACT legal. Nobody is stealing jack.
2)Most of these chapters already have to accept donations, as they can not charge admission (except in a few isolated cases).
3)Many areas of the country have lost Drive-In theaters. Unless you live in a giant city like Chicago or Los Angeles, chances are you will never see a Drive-In. This was why was started in the first place.
4)MobMovs can provide alternative movies to the same Hollywood computer generated schlock, to which the public is routinely subjected. Seriously, how many more Angelina Jolie or Adam Sandler films can the public digest? Further, if these small operations are making a dent in the business of standard theaters, then they need to play different movies. Also, many places where MobMov chapters are located don’t have access to art house cinemas or sometimes no theaters at all!

5)If you don’t want to see movies from a car, then don’t go. Don’t criticize other people who wish to partake in or recreate the experience.
6)Is someone seriously using the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, in addition to the high cost of gas, to argue against MobMovs? Give me a break. How many movie theaters are within walking distance of most patrons? And if you are trying to argue about soldiers dying in the Middle East, what about the thousands who died in WWII that believed in all activities American, including drive-ins? The whole drive-in theater business boomed as a result of returning soldiers wishing to spend time with their family.
7)In regards to the weather, it pretty much works like drive-ins in the mid-west. They’re seasonal, which means it closes down when late fall/winter comes. And regular drive-ins will also sometimes close for storms.

That said, let me tell you about an experience that happened back in August. In the rural location where I am from, we have a Drive-In theater. Me and my friends actively support this drive-in. However, when we tried to convince the owner to do a Dusk ‘Til Marathon of older exploitation Drive-In type movies, he wouldn’t go for it. However, he completely gave us the blessing to START A MOBMOV and run the movies we wanted to run (He felt Hollywood films were a more reliable investment). So there you have it. Even a small time drive-in owner doesn’t give a shit about MobMovs running in the local area.

You must login before making a comment.

New Comment