Mahoning Drive In Theater advertised a huge re-opening gala this past weekend to formally announce that the outdoor movie theater is open for the season.
The Mahoning Drive In is touted as more than a theater, it's a piece of the history of Lehighton. It is the third largest theater screen in the United States and home of many memories for the local community. The Mahoning has been a staple since 1948 and is an American Icon.
Those who braved the weather on Friday night had the opportunity to mingle with featured Hollywood stars Vinny Vella and Rich Rossi.
Vella is probably best known for the role of "Artie Piscano" in Martin Scorsese's Casino. He was the subject of a 67-minute documentary called "Hey, Vinny", completed in 2000 by director John Huba. He also played Jimmy Petrille on the HBO show The Sopranos. He appeared in Chasing the Green, Vincent, The Roadhouse, Spy, Home, In the Cut, Coffee and Cigarettes, The Bakery, Analyze That, High Times, ' Potluck, Kissing Jessica Stein, Wannabes, Ghost Dog,/. Spenser: Small Vices, Rounders, Destination Anywhere, Sausages and Casino.
Rossi is both an actor and New York International Film Star director. Rossi appeared in Godfather III, Meteor Man, The Butchers Wife, Krackoon, He's Way More Famous Than Your, Saving Little Italy and Fason Nou.
The two men talked to customers, posed for photographs, signed autographs and enjoyed eating a hot dog and popcorn at the snack bar. They also talked about their upcoming movie, Saving Little Italy.
Russ Glen who owns the theater said that he wants everyone to know that the theater is looking to make some major improvements, but he said much of that is up to the local people to support it by coming out to see the movies this summer.
On Saturday, the festivities continued with live music from Lasermedia, who has done tunes for The Doobie Brothers as well as Frank Sinatra.
"We're looking at spending $50,000 to $100,000 to go digital," he said. "We need everyone's support to keep the memories alive."
The major studios are no longer delivering their films on 35 mm and movie theaters who have not already done so, will be required to upgrade to digital or close.
Another issue that the Drive In is planning is a second and possibly a third screen that will again keep it competitive with all other theaters. It already has low prices.
Mahoning Drive In movie goers already have noticed some things are being done. The lighting of the neon sign out front on the marquee is lit up which hasn't been lit up for years and there was plenty of fresh paint and memorials to people. There is a brick planter box out front at the box office with peoples names as well as new tiles with those purchasing a brick or tile to keep the memories going. Also benches outside will have the same thing with plaques honoring those that want to keep the theater alive.
"There are a lot of people who don't want to see this close," said Glen. "We need people to come out and support it. Because once it's gone, it will never come back."
Glen said that he is hoping to see playground equipment to bring back the memories for the kids.
"We have lower prices and you don't have to trip over people," he said. "At the Mahoning Drive In you can talk on your cell phone (in your car)," he added.
"Drive in movies are on the comeback," said Glen. "Its a better value for families and there are fewer restrictions."
Mahoning Drive In will continue to make improvements for the good of the community, he said.
"But if it continues after the end of the year, it depends of the support of the community."
Those who want to see the Mahoning Drive In continue can purchase reward levels that range from $5 to $589. At the $5 level, you'll see a flower planter of brick at the entrance and for the $589 party level, it includes party celebration and pizza and sodas for up to 40 people, plus a tile and on screen for your event.