Nov. 14: Warner’s Drive-In, Franklin WV

It’s Day 318 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. Driving up I-81 most of the way, it took me just a little over three hours to drive from the Starlite Drive-In in Christiansburg VA to Warner’s Drive-In in Franklin WV.

According to a lengthy story on the West Virginia Historic Theatre Trail web site, Charlie Warner and his son Harold opened Warner’s Drive-In in April 1952. It held about 250 cars and had in-car speakers for decades before they were replaced by FM sound.

WOWK checked in on Warner’s in late 2013. By then, the Franklin Oil Company had acquired the drive-in and its land. James and Nancy Hess were the managers, and they showed movies on Friday and Saturday nights. Hess said the former owners found that 90 percent of people attending left after the first movie. The projection equipment and the concrete screen, built to be someone’s house, were still the originals.

After the 2014 season, movies on film dried up, and Warner’s closed. Franklin Oil Company tried to sell the drive-in to the West Virginia Department of Highways, but the deal fell through. A group of locals formed the Warner Drive-In Cultural & Resource Center, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, to raise money for equipment and operate the drive-in.

Warner’s reopened in September 2016, and 2017 was its first full season with the new equipment. The non-profit has plans to add a performance stage in front of the screen, repair and refurbish the screen’s interior, and eventually buy the land.

The embedded video of the day is from WHSV, Harrisonburg VA’s News Leader. It’s a fun celebration of the new community spirit that runs Warner’s as well as the fun of watching a show there. Too bad the night I was virtually there was in mid-November, when the drive-in was closed for the season.

Miles Today / Total: 174 / 36009 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: dark / 190

Nearby Restaurant: The Korner Shop Cafe is just three doors down from my hotel (see below) in downtown Franklin. It looks like the kind of small-town diner where I like to go for comfort food after visiting a closed drive-in, but the cafe had a nice selection of full dinners. I enjoyed a half-pound ribeye steak with a salad and green beans, followed by a slice of homemade cake. On a chilly November night, it was very comforting.

Where I Virtually Stayed: There aren’t very many places to stay in Franklin, and the one in the middle of downtown is the Star Hotel & Restaurant. It’s been around longer than Warner’s, but when I walked up to my room, it was clean and comfortable. It’s always nice to have a bar on the premises. With the restaurant part, I could order a full breakfast before I set out in the morning. Quaint!

Only in Franklin: Every September Franklin holds its Treasure Mountain Festival. This year’s event included the Gigantic Pumpkin Contest (winners typically over 1000 pounds), a parade, a muzzleload shooting contest, a beard and mustache contest, a watermelon seed spitting contest, and owl hooting.

Next stop: Sunset Drive-In Theater, Shinnston WV.

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