NOLA.com: Decades ago in New Orleans, residents looking to catch a cheap movie could go to the drive-in and watch the latest box-office hit from their cars. As many as 10 drive-in theaters thrived from 1940 to 1980, when the phenomenon was in its heyday. But since the last theater closed in the early '80s, those eager to catch an outside flick have been out of luck.
A few weeks ago, a new group called NOLA Drive-In screened Jim Jarmusch's "Down by Law" atop a decommissioned Schwegmann's store at 300 N. Broad Street in Mid-City. The free event, which encourages donations, repeats Saturday night, with Wes Anderson's "Bottle Rocket" rolling at 8 p.m.
The enterprise is co-sponsored by the New Orleans Film Society and Broad Community Connections, a nonprofit organization designed to revitalize the Broad Street commercial corridor. BCC's executive director, Jeff Schwartz, said the rooftop parking lot is an excellent venue for the screenings and dovetails perfectly with what his organization is trying to do.
"In our strategic planning meetings, we had envisioned using the ... parking area for something like an outdoor movie theater," said Schwartz, whose group is in negotiations to buy the building. "We just hadn't gotten that far yet."
The rooftop parking lot at the former Schwegmann's was designed to hold about a hundred cars, Bissette said. The first screening in late April was so popular, cars were turned away. But that didn't stop cyclists and pedestrians from joining the party.
"We set up a film screen -- it's 14 feet high and 20 feet wide -- and we put speakers up front," he said. "The idea is to save the room closest to the stage for pedestrians and cyclists, and they either bring folding chairs or blankets to sit on and watch."
Cars are stationed a little farther back, and occupants can tune into a radio station to pick up the film's soundtrack via an FM transmitter that Bissette uses. Moviegoers can bring their own refreshments or buy them on site from vendors who offer beer, snow-balls, popcorn, and Latin food from Glenda's Taco Truck.
Bissette has been told he may need to have two screenings a night to accommodate the crowds, if the first screening is any indication of the event's popularity.
"We really don't know exactly how many people were there, but my guess is about 80 cars and 50 bicycles." said Bissette, who will open the roof tonight at 6 p.m. "It's a good idea to get there early."
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