CL-DRIVE IN THEATERS

The Mt. Zion Drive-In in Calhoun County has been showing movies since 1950. It's one of two left in West Virginia. But this could be the last summer of the drive-in picture show.
The Hur Herald
The Mt. Zion Drive-In in Calhoun County has been showing movies since 1950. It's one of two left in West Virginia. But this could be the last summer of the drive-in picture show.

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MT. ZION, W.Va. — A piece of Americana is in on the brink of extinction. Drive-in movie theaters could be finished after this year as production houses end their use of 35mm projector film. Drive-in operators will have to upgrade to digital projection systems. The price tag for the conversion is around $85,000.

“It’s not economical for us to take out a loan and do that,” said Bonnie Sands, manager of the Mt. Zion Drive-In in Calhoun County. “It would take us the next 50 years to pay it off.”

The Mt. Zion Drive-In and the Meadow Bridge Drive-In are the last in West Virginia. They are the gathering place in those rural communities on summer Friday and Saturday nights. They also draw customers from larger cities who’ll make the drive to share the experience with their children.

“We have the concession stand and people come here to eat their dinner.  They enjoy it on the tailgate and have family time,” said Sands. “We become the hangout for the local kids. They bring their bikes and ride them before the show and we have swings and a playground.”

Typically Sands said they’ll get an average of 50 cars on a summer weekend night, but this year has been well above average as many fear it may be the last chance to see a picture show under the stars.

Sands however is hopeful enough support exists to get them over the hump. Honda and Sony Pictures have established “Project Drive-In.” It’s a promotion to help save the drive-in movie theater across the country.

“America gets to vote for the top five drive-ins,” said Sands. “Those top five drive-ins get a digital cinema, paid for by Honda and save their drive-in.”

Both Mt. Zion and Meadow Bridge are on the website. Sands is hopeful the support will be there in West Virginia to help them make the top five. The Mt. Zion Drive-In has been in business since 1950 and Sands’ family has run the establishment since 1979.

 

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Comments

  • Larry

    Actors are great role models, teach your children to act like them.

  • manda

    The one in Pendleton County (Franklin) is still up and running. A movie every weekend from memorial day to labor day. Once it closes their will be nothing to do over the summer for the kids and families. This weekend is the Lone Ranger, so they do have up to date movies. I hope they can find a way to help keep it open.

  • Amy Berg

    Contact Honda corporation. I read an article just a few days ago that they are trying to save American drive-in theatres. Projectdrivein.com.

  • Jen

    There is one in Upper Tract, WV as well. It is Warner's Drive In. It is truly a gem. I hate that this happening to our drive ins!

  • Wixcheew

    Please learn to spell if you are
    going to leave comments! Their is a
    pronoun. It can not be used in place of there. When you use
    incorrect spelling and grammar you
    will lose respect and impact.
    Also the drive ins must survive and
    the public can donate to the cause.
    Just give up a little bit and save a
    lot. You can always get those things later but these icons will die without your help.

  • mark romano

    In WV there are six operating drive ins. There are two that are on the list to vote to keep open and is available at projectdrivein.com
    A website, I believe is drive-ins.com it shows all the drive ins in the u.s., including a way to search ones still open by states.
    Mt. Zion, Meadow Bridge, Shinnston, Pipestem, Franklin, Hilltop at Chester are ones listed as still being open in WV.

    • Chris Lawrence

      Thanks Mark, I couldn't find anything reliable that made that list available, so I focused on the two which were part of the Honda promotion. Didn't mean to mislead or slight any other drive-ins.

  • Tim

    If you want to vote for Mt. Zion:
    http://projectdrivein.com/vote_8

  • Shinnnston Boy

    God bless the Ellis Family. God bless the Sunset Drive In. God Bless their sell outs every weekend! I love Drive Ins.

    • ShinnstonGuy

      Sunset Ellis somehow gets movies the same weekend they are released. That's part of the reason they do so well. Any business can succeed if they change with the times!

  • David

    I would think the link where you could vote would have been helpful within this article.

  • Farmgal

    The Grafton Drive-In could not afford the switch. Last year at the end of the season they did not reopen.

  • Larry

    With hd tvs, computers, high speed internet, etc., aren't all movie theaters in danger of extinction?

  • Bob

    There is one in Franklin still open and the one in Grafton is closed.

    • CaptainQ

      The one in Franklin, Warner Drive In, cannot afford the upgrades so this will likely be their last season too.

  • Lee

    I heard the one in Taylor County closed.. but the one in Shinnston is still up and running

  • Kevin Wiles

    Sunset Ellis Drive Inn near Shinnston did they forget about it from my understanding it has been upgraded. What about the one out on 119 in Taylor County

  • Realist

    These are NOT the only drive-ins in WV. Sunset in Shinston has already made the switch to digital. Are you saying they are the only two left needing to make the switch?

    • Chris Lawrence

      Those are the only two which were on the Honda Promotion list. Couldn't find a reliable list of which ones are open or closed in WV. Others commenting here tell me the number is actually six--and some of them have paid to make the conversion to digital. I didn't mean to slight anybody or impune other drive-ins. My apologies.