Drive-in theaters are the product of a time and place (America in the early 20th century) where land and gasoline were plentiful and cheap. Uniting two national passions — cars and movies — thousands of drive-in theaters operated across the country during the 1950s and 1960s.
Today, they are rapidly disappearing from the landscape and in New York City (which has the lowest rate of private automobile ownership and highest real estate prices in the U.S.) there are none at all.
But this week, the Tribeca Film Festival recreated the drive-in experience in Lower Manhattan. Today a large screen, loudspeakers and rows of chairs were erected in the cove behind the World Financial Center for an event called the “Tribeca Drive-In.”
Early arrivals received free popcorn, candy, drinks and seat cushions and settled in for a special screening of Planet B-Boy. The film is a new documentary about Battle Of The Year, a world-wide break-dance competition held annually in Germany.
The evening’s program began when Fab 5 Freddy, the former host of Yo! MTV Raps (who is now known as the grandfather of the New York hip-hop scene), welcomed the crowd. He explained that “B-Boy” stands for, variously, “Break-Boy,” “Beat-Boy” or “Bronx-Boy,” and is the preferred term for those who practice this form of dancing.
He went on to introduce Ken Swift, one of the original members of the fabled Rock Steady Crew, who demonstrated “classic” break-dancing moves and gave lessons to audience members. Other live performers included the Persuaders, the Beatbox Orchestra, Knucklehead Zoo, Toni Blackman and the Drifters (a team of B-Boys from Korea).
By the time the sky was dark enough for the main attraction, the crowd that had gathered at the “Drive-In” was overflowing and enraptured. Even when it began to rain, the crowd stayed in place to watch the film and, afterwards, to give director Benson Lee a standing ovation.
MySpace: Planet B-Boy
Battle of the Year
Tribeca Drive In
Fab 5 Freddy
Rock Steady Crew
Ken Swift’s Breaklife
Google video: Drifters (Korea) v. Pokeman (France)
Wikipedia: Drive In
Wikipedia: Yo! MTV Raps
World Financial Center