July 30: Holiday Drive-In Theatre, Mitchell IN

It’s Day 211 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. It took just a half hour to drive from the Starlite Drive-In Theatre south of Bloomington IN to the Holiday Drive-In Theatre south of Mitchell IN.

Actually, the Holiday is about halfway between Mitchell and Orleans IN. It opened in 1962, owned by George Webb and Theodore Stigall. In 1983, Robert Limeberry bought the Holiday and kept it running until he passed away. The current owner, Steve Wilson, bought the Holiday from Limeberry’s estate in the winter of 2005.

Wilson went one important step further, purchasing the Holiday’s land in January 2008. We’ve seen plenty of examples where drive-ins were forced to close because the landowner decided to sell. That didn’t happen in this dot on the highway surrounded by farm land. “We’re kind of lucky from the standpoint it sits in a corn field,” Wilson told the Electric Consumer in September 2008. “If it sat anywhere else, somebody would have had it torn down.”

The Holiday dodged another problem common to drive-ins this decade. Wilson launched a GoFundMe campaign in 2015 to raise the money for a digital projector. “We have started this Go fund Me page, to bring awareness to the high possibility of losing this theater,” it said. The campaign raised only a little more than $10,000, but before the start of the 2016 season, Wilson found an older digital projector from a defunct Hazard KY indoor theater, thanks in part to Jim Boyd, owner of the Van-Del Drive-In in Middle Point OH.

According to the Bedford Times-Mail (subscription required), the result was a huge success.  “Last year, we had probably the biggest April we’ve ever had,” Wilson said. And this year he opened earlier than usual, in mid-March, to take advantage of the buzz around the live-action Beauty and the Beast.

Speaking of buzz, I’ve embedded another drone video, again from last year. On this one, instead of hearing the whirring blades, the videographer added old-time movie scratch effects because, uh, 1962 movie theater setting, uh … okay, I don’t get it. But the views make the video definitely worth watching.

This was the fourth time I’ve seen the latest Transformers installment, but the loud action makes it a pretty good drive-in movie. I couldn’t recall another drive-in that rents lawn chairs, but that might have been because of all the cinnamon sugar mini-donuts I ate there.

Miles Today / Total:  27 / 26150 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: Transformers: The Last Knight / 126

Nearby Restaurant: The Millstone Dining Room in the Spring Mill Inn in Spring Mill State Park has a well-deserved reputation for some really great fried chicken. Add that it’s served in a buffet setting, and you’ve got two ingredients for a great experience, at least the way I rank these things. The dessert bar featured cornmeal pie and persimmon pudding. You can’t find food like this just anywhere.

Where I Virtually Stayed: The only real place to stay in Mitchell is the Spring Mill Inn inside Spring Mill State Park just east of town. My room was a lot different than what I’d find at a chain hotel, with a wooden rocker, a DVD player, a real quilt on the bed, and that’s about it. Good thing there was wifi, because cell reception was pretty spotty this far out in such a peaceful setting.

Only in Mitchell: The Mitchell Opera House opened in 1906 as the County Hall. In 1908, Menlo E. Moore took over its operation, renaming it the Opera House. For over 20 years, it hosted live shows, silent movies, and political rallies. The building had several other uses (storage, teen center, city hall) from 1930 to 1981, when it was reopened for occasional shows. After a full renovation, it reopened permanently in July 2015.

Next stop: Holiday Auto Theatre, Hamilton OH.

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