Adventure December 2, 2014

Get Out There


The Really Big Screen [pg. 2]
More Than Just Flicks [pg. 3]
Heroic Filmmaking [pg. 4]
#SVGRAM [pg. 5]



The Really Big Screen

The Drive-In Movie Experience in Idaho


Idaho boasts nine drive-ins throughout the state which is more  than its fair share of the approximately 350 in the U.S. today.

Americans have had a long love affair with cars. From the craze that Henry Ford’s first Model T created in 1908 to the glamour cars of the fifties to modern-day mini vans, hybrids and monster trucks, we love our automobiles—and we spend a lot of time in them.

The average American spends as much time driving during a lifetime as it would take to drive to the moon and back more than three times. We clearly love to drive. We love the power and freedom cars provide. We also love to talk, eat, sing and, occasionally, procreate in our cars. So, it should come as no surprise that drive-in movie theaters are not only still alive, they’re doing pretty well, especially here in the Gem State.

Although many folks think that drive-in theaters have gone the way of the dodo bird, there are actually more than 350 still open nationwide, including a handful in southern Idaho (see sidebar). Sure, it’s a far cry from the more than 4,000 drive-ins scattered across the country at the peak of their popularity during the Eisenhower Administration.  But the genre is far from extinct.

The Terrace Drive-in Theatre in Caldwell first opened in 1958 but closed after a massive fire destroyed the projector building. Alice Estrada was a youngster back in Texas when the Terrace started, but after she first saw the big blank screens sadly standing in a large lot overgrown with weeds, she knew what she had to do. She bought the place that day, moved over to the western edge of the Treasure Valley and brought the theater back to life in 1990. 

Thanks to the addition of a new state-of-the-art $100,000 film projector, the Terrace now offers an exceptional movie-watching experience and regularly hosts more than a hundred cars during weekend showings from April through October.

“The picture is so good you feel like you’re indoors, except for the stars … or the wind or rain,” Estrada said with a friendly smile, in between greeting carloads of movie fans from the check-in booth. Estrada doesn’t just take folks’ money (kids 11 and under are free), she also chats up all the patrons. 

The first drive-in theater was little more than a sheet hung up between two trees by a rather entrepreneurial guy in New Jersey back in 1932. Besides the quality of the screen and projector, the biggest difference about going to a drive-in theater now, as opposed to back in its heyday, is the boxed speaker that used to hang from the car window has been replaced by simply tuning the rigs’ radio to 105.5 FM.

The Terrace Drive-In offers all of the regular movie snacks like popcorn and candy, plus barbeque items. Thaddeus Crofts, Estrada’s son, even mans the grill when he’s not up running the projector. Unlike some other drive-ins, you can also bring whatever you’d like to eat or drink, which is popular with the scores of families who pile into the back of pickup trucks and SUVs and wrap themselves up in blankets, sleeping bags and pillows to enjoy the show.

“It’s like going back in time, except the picture is much better now,” Crofts said. “People just love to sit in their metal boxes.”


More Than Just Flicks

The Valley's Theaters Deliver


Bigwood4 Cinemas in Hailey.

It was 10 o’clock on a Saturday morning when 120 people crowded into a theater at the Bigwood4 in Hailey. Of all things, they were there for a performance of Verdi’s “Aida” broadcast live from New York’s Metropolitan Opera.

The Hailey theater is one of only five Idaho theaters that airs “The Met: Live in HD” performances twice monthly, October through April. 

“It allows me to get closer to the performance than I would at The Met,” said Sun Valley Opera Director Mary Jo Helmeke. “And I love having the camera take us behind the scenes and to interviews with the stars.”

Family fare, such as the 2013 animated feature film “Frozen,” remain the theater’s bread and butter, said Manager Larry Davenport. But Bigwood 4 also presents high-definition performances of the Israeli Philharmonic and “The Nutcracker Ballet.”

The theater offers stadium-style seating, reduced prices Mondays through Thursdays and 3D movies.

The Opera House in Sun Valley opened in 1937 and  has hosted a wide variety of events, including USO  shows to entertain our military troops.

The Sun Valley Opera House, which opened in 1937 with 10-cent movies like “National Velvet,” has hosted USO shows, community plays and Sun Valley Jazz Festival performances. It even doubled as church for Catholics while theirs was being rebuilt.

But the theater has continued its mission as a movie theater, launching each ski season with the latest Warren Miller movie, hosting the Family of Woman Film Festival and offering free showings of “Sun Valley Serenade,” in addition to first-run movies. Those dining at Bald Mountain Pizza get free tickets, according to Sun Valley’s Marketing Director Jack Sibbach.

The original Magic Lantern Cinema in Ketchum. (Photo courtesy Magic Lantern Cinema)

The theater seats in Rick Kessler’s office at the Magic Lantern Cinemas are testament to his lifelong love of films that began with a 25-cent Saturday matinee of “Snow White.” There were no theater seats in the IOOF Hall where Kessler opened his first theater in 1974. Theatergoers got their pick of a front-row bench and beach chairs as they watched two divergent classics: “Alice in Wonderland” and “Last Tango in Paris.”

Kessler now has six theaters, all running first-run movies—something he couldn’t get the first five years in business.

“‘Blazing Saddles’ and ‘American Graffiti’ came out in the fall of 1973—Ketchum audiences didn’t see them for six months,” he recalled.

Kessler started the Magic Lantern Fall Film Festival 25 years ago as counter-programming to football and the World Series. He later added a Spring Film Festival, allowing Ketchum’s sophisticated filmgoers to see foreign and independent films that normally wouldn’t make it to Sun Valley. 

When Kessler opened, the country was abuzz about “Deep Throat,” the comedic and pornographic film of 1972. Kessler promised the city fathers that he would not show XXX films, but he did get them to allow X-rated films, citing the respectable examples of “Midnight Cowboy” and “Last Tango in Paris.” Kessler did, in fact, open with the latter. He also launched a porn-of-the-month club. People lined up outside the movie theater in trench coats with paper bags over their heads, Kessler recalled.

More recently, he has provided a forum for special events, such as the Sun Valley Center for the Arts’ showing of documentary shorts on forest fires. He’s also shown old classics like “M*A*S*H” and “Blazing Saddles” for the local film society.

Kessler’s was one of the first theaters in the country to get a beer and wine license—early on, people were bringing cases of beer with them, he said. Steve McQueen was among those attending his “Get Smashed with ‘M*A*S*H” kick-off, paying $1 for the movie and all the beer he could drink.

Kessler still serves beer, wine, even pizza and ice cream. But you won’t find him serving dinner during movies. “When the lights go down, your focus should be on the screen,” he said. “There’s nothing superior to theater—not iPad, computer, TV, even home theater. The movie theater is a social experience—where you can walk down the street and hear people screaming during a horror movie.”


Heroic Filmmaking​

A Few Tips for the GoPro Era


Believe it or not, wingsuiting down the Swiss Alps and skiing off 100-foot cliffs aren’t prerequisites for making engaging outdoor sports movies. With the expert advice from local photographers and videographers Bryan Huskey, of Silver Creek Outfitters Media Department, and Spencer Cordovano, of Spencer Cordovano Video Productions, your next GoPro outdoor sports edit could go big, or, at the very least, captivate friends and family while capturing the lifetime memories of Sun Valley and beyond. 

Bryan Huskey is an expert on creating quality short videos efficiently. In terms of offering advice to those creating their own outdoor sports movies with GoPros and personal cameras, he stresses being deliberate with what you are doing, from the storyline, to the video to the audio.

“Whether 30 seconds or 30 minutes, have a beginning, middle and end to your edit,” Huskey explained in a recent interview. “For anything that’s sports or outdoors related and includes people, try to ask questions when filming: ‘Who are you? Where are you?  What are you doing?  Why?’  Also, by prompting a person to describe what they’re feeling, it gives you rich content and building material to work with.” 

Regarding filming, Huskey warned of our inclination to turn the camera on the moment we leave the house and to let it run until nightfall.  “Cameras today have such large memory cards that oftentimes users turn them on and run around all day, ending up with so much footage that it is just overwhelming to sort through, edit, and find the good stuff,” he said. “Every time you go out, think about why you are turning on the camera and what you are trying to get. Be deliberate.”

Huskey also emphasized the importance of quality audio. “Even if we don’t consciously register it, sounds add texture, atmosphere, tempo and feel to video. Chances are, edits people consider the best are rad because the incredible audio of the movie tricks viewers into thinking that they’re there.”

Brian Drussel at the Hailey Skate Park.

The brutal truth that we all need to hear is that the rest of the world might not find our every turn on the ski mountain or mountain bike climb as intriguing as we do. So, one of the best pieces of advice from the experts is to make your outdoor sports movies short. 

“The shorter you can make something, the better,” Huskey said. “If it starts out as 10 minutes long, it will probably be twice as good when it’s five minutes long.  When you’re done with your movie, make it half the length—no matter how long it is. Keep the stuff that has to be there for someone else to connect (with it).”

When it comes to equipment, GoPro stands out among the experts as the favorite and most durable camera of its type, especially with the recent release of the GoPro Hero 4. In terms of additional equipment, the next recommended purchases are a microphone and a tripod. For editing, Cordovano recommends the iPhone GoPro app for examining frames and shots, and Polar Pro Filters for an enhancement of footage. Huskey and Cordovano said that more important than getting the latest and greatest equipment is becoming familiar with the camera you have and taking advantage of its full capabilities. 

Stay close to subjects when using cameras with less capable ranges, and experiment with different angles so as to take your movie out of the “all-GoPro-videos-look-the-same” category. GoPros have a variety of settings, so experiment and use them, and as Huskey said, “Fake it ‘til you make it.”

And with that advice, go be a hero.





The Places, Faces and Parties of Sun Valley


Enjoy some of the Sun Valley life as captured by all of our local and talented photographers (both amateur and professional) on Instagram. We’ve collected some of our favorites to share. Follow us on Instagram at @sunvalleymagazine. Caption your photos #SVGram and #sunvalleymag; you may become the next Annie Liebovitz discovered on our pages!

@i_khandy #invertedtreegrab #ReedSnyderman


Left: @langemcneal #braap #IlovemyDad / Right: @langemcneal #furbikini #hainesAK


@i_khandy #ilovewinter #SorenIreland


@langemcneal #powderhound

Left: @i_khandy #CollinCollins #DollarTerrainPark / Right: @mtnapproach #5BSkiGarage


This article appears in the Winter 2015 Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.