Monday, April 22, 2013

Remco Movieland Drive-In Theater, 1959

Here it is -- the toy I coveted most for Christmas that year (I was six).  After seeing the TV commerical (see below) I remember being surprised at how small it was, but I wasn't disappointed.  I spent many happy hours in the dark getting eyestrain trying to read the slightly out of focus titles.
Powered by two D batteries, it's essentially a flashlight.  From a technical standpoint, it's certainly not very impressive, and wasn't even at the time. We did, after all, have home movie projectors in 1959.  The 'movies' are merely black and white filmstrips. Each strip contains two slideshows, side by side, in which each frame is a mere 4mm wide.
But I loved it anyway.  To me, it wasn't just a toy, it was an experience. One drove the basic tin cars through the entrance, parked and waited for the show to begin.  And because it was illuminated by a standard flashlight bulb, the room was required to be pitch dark for maximum effect.  It came with a 'light shield' (made of black, heavy stock paper) in case you wanted to view it in daylight hours, but who goes to the drive-in during the middle of the day?
There were even cardboard inserts to display the evening's double feature.  The stories themselves were not terribly exciting, of course, but as opposed to say, a Give-a-Show Projector set, there were enough panels to convey the bare essentials of a story including a beginning, a middle and an end.  For example, Mighty Mouse goes to the moon and discovers rather hostile aliens.  At the end, it's revealed to be a mere dream.  
The projection booth.  One pulls or pushes the plastic cone to adjust focus (it never gets terribly sharp).  One obvious omission was a refreshment stand.
 As you can see, there's no masking for the image.

 This feature is based on the television program, Have Gun - Will Travel, starring Richard Boone (1957 -1963). Though it's hard to imagine it now, it was one of several half hour dramas produced for television at that time.
Below, the TV commercial starring Patty Duke a few years before she starred on Broadway in The Miracle Worker.  The person who posted this video thoughtfully provided information about the toy and Remco.

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