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Drive-In Series Kicks off with “Back to the Future”

By Gathering Marbet
Special to The Lookout

August 2 -- Starting Tuesday you can grab a jacket, some popcorn, rent a beach chair and watch an all-time favorite family flick outdoors -- while providing relief for cancer patients.

At 8 p.m., the third annual Santa Monica Drive-In at the Pier -- produced by Deep Ellum, Film, Music, Arts and Noise (DEFMAN) and the Santa Monica Pier Restoration Corporation -- will kick off its free Arts Against Cancer fundraiser with a showing of “Back to the Future.”

Every Tuesday through September, a different tried and true blockbuster with a PG 13 rating -- chosen during the previous year through e-mail requests -- will be featured on a huge screen at the pier.

Though admission is free, tickets are required for entry and are available at The Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, the Visitor’s Center in the Santa Monica Place mall, Borders on the Third Street Promenade and Vidiots.

Since previous screenings have drawn more than 5,000 movie goers, with an average of 3,500 per film, pier officials suggest picking up tickets ahead of time and arriving at least an hour early.

Officials have praised the public’s response to the events, calling it "overwhelmingly successful."

"It’s just a really spectacular event," said Rachel Hoover, marketing and community relations manager for the Pier Restoration Corp. "It draws a different kind of crowd -- a lot of families, young couples and older couples."

Tuesday’s screening of "Back To The Future" will be followed on subsequent Tuesday’s by "Austin Powers," "The Sting," "Zoolander” and "West Side Story." September’s features are still being locked down.

These coming attractions will help raise money for the Cancer Relief Fund through raffles, rental chairs ($5) and donations.

To lure participants, last year’s raffles included an electric motor scooter, dinner for two at the Lobster and a rental of a Mini Cooper convertible. This year’s items are still under wraps.

All of this amounts to a successful event for all, and a lifesaver for some.

Ninety-eight percent of funds raised go directly to cancer patents residing in Los Angeles County and Dallas County, to help pay rents and mortgages, and medical and grocery bills, said Michael Cain, the founder of DEFMAN and Arts Against Cancer.

"There are plenty of great organizations that help with cancer research, but very few that help people with bills," Cain said.

Last years films, including "Star Wars", "Ferris Bueller’s Day Off," "Super Size Me," and the "Wizard of Oz," raised $10,000 dollars, which helped more than two dozen families experiencing cancer-related financial hardship.

Cain started the Arts Fighting Cancer in 1999 when his own family was struck with the disease.

"I was working as a filmmaker in LA, and I got a phone call that my father might have cancer," Cain said. "Unfortunately it turned out that he had pancreatic cancer which only gives you two to six months to live."

Cain returned to Texas to be with his father, where he hatched a plan to start a cancer relief fund that supported filmmaking. Soon after, DEFMAN organization was formed (now named Arts against Cancer) and the Deep Ellum Film Festival in Dallas was born.

Eventually Cain lobbied the pier to extend his cancer relief efforts to the Santa Monica film festival.

Ben Franz Knight, director of the Santa Monica Pier Restoration Corporation, responded to the idea, Cain said. "He called me up and said, ‘Hey, that idea about the film festival on the Pier -- I’m into it.’"

This evolved into the current Drive-In series, Cain said.

Now, besides the events in Santa Monica and Dallas, Cain also holds the Pasadena Cinema in the Park fundraiser.

Funds raised from these events are dispersed four times a year, and individuals undergoing treatment for cancer can apply for funds by filling out a simple form and including a letter from their doctor, Cain said.

Cain is also adamant that applicants use e-mail to communicate to Arts Against Cancer, and let them know what they need and when they need it, despite deadline requirements.

"Sometimes they can’t wait three months," Cain said. "Some people have passed away in that very short amount of time."

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