How the heck did I miss this one? The humble Misquamicut Drive-In, across Atlantic Avenue from Wuskenau Town Beach, has been entertaining Westerly RI motorists since July 7, 2011. That year, the Misquamicut Business Association tapped George Tattersall, of Tattersall Builders, to design and built a 16-by-25-foot screen for the theater. It started with AM radio sound, though it uses FM sound these days.
Viewers are charged by the carload, a very sensible idea, and the Misquamicut shows a mixture of classic and recent movies. The drive-in idea was an outgrowth of Misquamicut Classic Car Cruise Nights, which have been going on since 2001.
The drive-in, which holds about 100 cars on its flat lot, was a big hit from the start, and interest grew even stronger after the Covid pandemic started. Tickets for the Misquamicut are offered at its web site, and its opening night in 2020 sold out in less than two hours. It looks like the association has added more movie nights this year, a tribute to its popularity.
Although it’s not very traditional, without an old-school drive-in’s concentric ramps, I’m still embarrassed that I hadn’t noticed the Misquamicut before. I’m glad that’s fixed.
Continuing problems at the Sunset Drive-In in Shinnston WV have left owner John Ellis wondering whether he’ll be able to show movies again this season. That’s according to a series of reports by WBOY, Clarksburg’s News Leader.
It all started in February this year. After a solid 2021 season, the Sunset was hit by vandals, who trashed the projection room, stole computers, and cut wires. Ellis worked to repair his digital projector and was able to reopen for a weekend earlier this month. Then the projector stopped working, and now he’s looking for parts and a repair technician if he can find them.
In between, the venerable, adjacent Sunset Ellis Restaurant, owned by Anthony Ellis, closed its doors Sunday. The owner cited problems finding the ingredients he needed for his specialties, and in finding workers for the kitchen. Members of Ellis family have owned the complex since 1955, and opening the restaurant five years later.
For now, I’m marking the Sunset as closed, dropping it from the Carload active drive-in theater list. Here’s hoping I get to put it back soon.
I’m worried that I gave listeners the wrong impression Sunday morning. I was talking about drive-ins on Road Dog Trucking Radio, SiriusXM Channel 146. The show was Dave Nemo Weekends, hosted by Jimmy Mac. (Thanks, Jimmy!) Towards the end of the segment, he asked me about the future of drive-ins. Last week, I spent some time pruning the Carload drive-in list, and seeing a dozen healthy drive-ins shut down since the start of the pandemic left me a little bummed out. I gave an example or two of drive-ins that were reopening, but the fresh memory of those closures might have made me sound less optimistic than usual.
Now that I’m back to rummaging around for good news, I found an item that’s particularly close to home for me. The Pine Hill Drive-In in Piedmont MO had been in operation since 1953, but it closed in 2015 and was put up for sale soon after. I saw this historic, intact theater and hoped that someone would take over and get it ready for movies again. That finally happened when new owners bought the place in the fall of 2021 and reopened it just a few weeks ago on Memorial Day weekend.
Alva “A.B.” and Maude Jefferis built the Pine Hill in 1953 and lived in a house they also built behind the back fence of the drive in. Maude made the newspapers in 1973 when she photographed a number of odd blinking lights “high above the drive-in movie screen that stands beyond a pond in Mrs. Jefferis’s front yard.” The Pine Hill passed through another couple of owners after that, and I’m happy that it stayed active well into the new millennium. Now that it has fresh owners, I hope the drive-in can stay alive for another 70 years.