Ashville, North Carolina: Outdoor Movies a Big Hit

Those four words are enough to get me to change out of my sweats, miraculously find my car keys and hit the streets.

Last weekend, the promise of Paul's baby blues was the only carrot I saw dangling outside my apartment's door. The peanuts; now that snack was an added bonus.

That's because I caught a showing of the late, great Newman's classic Cool Hand Luke at the Wedge Brewery as night fell last Saturday.

I've been meaning to visit the Wedge for an outdoor movie some time now. Since June, the brewery in the River Arts District has shown movies from the Woody Allen farce Bananas, to the 1958 ode to moonshining, Thunder Road in its gravel parking lot just this side of the railroad tracks.

Drive-in theaters hold a certain appeal for me. It's not really due to a nostalgic notion. In the interest of full disclosure, if it was nostalgia, it really would be that I am nostalgic for a time I never experienced. The drive-in's golden years had long tarnished by the time I was seeing movies.

Growing up, I did get to see a few films at a drive-in before the area theater rolled its final credits. The last outdoor movie I saw was Jurassic Park II.

Seeing a movie at the drive-in really made it seem like a real occasion. Comparing a movie in a multiplex to the drive-in is like comparing a dinner date to the prom; at the drive-in, you would remember the experience leading up to and after the main event. You weren't just sitting anonymously in the dark; there were stars on screen and in the sky above. And believe me, those Jurassic Park dinosaurs were scarier on the outdoor screens, in some scenes looking as if they were peering out from the trees around the movie screen.

The Wedge doesn't transform into a classic drive-in theater, but it does do a pretty good impersonation.

With the flip of a switch on a projector, a tractor-trailer became the movie screen for the audience lounging in fold-out chairs. As an amusing extra, they also screened old reels on the dangers of carbon monoxide during the film's intermission (don't ever fall asleep in your cars, folks). Other shorts urged a trio to the concession stand.

And The Wedge did have a make-shift concession stand actually a grill. I didn't see any marching popcorns or dancing hot dogs.

But of course, the Wedge does have something the drive-ins of yesteryear didn't beer. Good beer. To keep with the movie theme, I got a pint of the Golem on tap (I'm not sure if it's a reference to the Lord of the Rings character, but I couldn't resist saying that out loud at a bar and actually not getting gawked at this time).

I enjoyed my brew with a few friends on the porch outside the bar and took advantage of the complimentary bowls of peanuts. See, I told you there would be peanuts.

A few times during the movie, a passing train rolled by behind the movie screen. While noisy, the trains didn't interrupt the whole feel of the evening. Trains like drive-ins continue to be romantic, even exotic to the 20-something set.

It was a great change of pace from my typical Asheville night life. If the Wedge ever decided to do anything else remotely retro, like serve bottle Cokes and host a sock hop, I'd be the first to take off my shoes.

This is the opinion of Citizen-Times staff writer Carol Motsinger, who writes an entertainment column every Friday for Take5.

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