How are you doing?

For this cropped bit of stock photography, do you know which drive-in was holding this religious service? I sure don’t. © Depositphotos / everett225

Hi there! Are you well? I sure hope so. I’m sorry and a little embarrassed to have left you without fresh posts for so long. 2020 has been a very strange year, and its effect on drive-ins has also been very strange. Writing about anything so small and relatively unimportant feels like The News for Parrots, but this is a drive-in theater blog.

First, this new blog theme is jarring, but a WordPress update broke the menus on the theme I had been using. I’ll need some time to find a good replacement with a dark background like a drive-in Saturday night. At least this one still seems okay on phones as well as desktops.

Now, about my absence here for a few months. At the start, I was researching my next drive-in book, Drive-Ins of Colorado. That book should be out around the end of September, a date which seems much closer than it used to. Then the pandemic hit, locking out all in-person research tools and making me question what’s really important in life. The feeling passed after a few weeks, and I went back to work on the Colorado book and on updating last year’s book, Drive-Ins of Route 66.

Two quick notes: If you have any photos of Colorado’s drive-ins, especially those that aren’t active any more, that you’d like to offer for inclusion into that book, please drop me a line at mkilgore (at) carload.com by August 24. And if you would like to peruse a first draft PDF (free, and worth every penny) of the book in exchange for noticing my mistakes, send me an email at the same address. That PDF should be ready before Labor Day.

Oh, yes, the blog. There has been too much news about drive-ins this year. Some were blocked from opening. Others were encouraged to open. Concession stands were closed. Concessions were being sold at the box office. Some drive-ins reopened their concession stands and returned to the practice of blocking outside food. Pop-up drive-ins sprouted all over. Nobody had any fresh movies to show.

I feel especially bad about not really being able to maintain the list of active drive-ins. What’s there is correct as of January 2020, but what does an accurate list look like today? What does it mean when an established drive-in can’t open because of state or local mandates? When a pop-up opens in an indoor theater parking lot, is that really a new drive-in?

All of this is one tiny part of world upheaval. Over half a million painful deaths from the Covid virus. Society mostly shut down, then partially reopened into partial paranoia. A growing awareness that persons of color are less likely to have successful interactions with law enforcement than pale folks like me. Discussions of moving election dates, deciding which votes to count, and what are okay ways to vote. (Carload World HQ is in Colorado, an all-mail ballot state, yet I don’t feel corrupt.)

That’s why it’s hard for me to generate sufficient enthusiasm to relay a summary of the upcoming Metallica concert for drive-ins, or the new pop-up Motorama in Santa Fe NM, or even winds knocking down the long-closed Hill-Top’s screen in Joliet IL, although I do need to update the Route 66 book for that last one. I’ll drop by again when I have more news of my Colorado book, and maybe I’ll also find something else I’d enjoy sharing with you. Thanks always for dropping by.

Video: Haar’s Land Is For Sale

More possibly sad news, this time from the venerable Haar’s Drive-In Theatre in Dillsburg PA. A For Sale sign popped up on the site last week, and now I know that it’s news to the drive-in’s owner. I found out thanks to a news video posted by ABC27, Harrisburg’s News Leader.

Vickie Hardy is the third-generation owner of Haar’s, which was built starting in 1952 and opened in June 1953. She told the Patriot-News of Harrisburg, “Sunday a week ago, we were driving by and seeing someone putting a sign up … it was a sign putting the property we are on for sale”.

The York Daily Record had more information about the landowner, Giant Food Stores. “We regularly review our real estate portfolio to ensure it meets strategic priorities, and as a result we made the business decision to sell the property,” said Christopher Brand, director of external communications at Giant. “It is our hope that if a buyer emerges, they will continue to lease the land to Haar’s.”

All three sources said that the lease contained a provision requiring six months’ notice before changes, and the Daily Record said Brand apologized that Haar’s didn’t get that notice. Hardy told the Patriot-News, “They informed me that yes, they were supposed to tell us six months in advance, and they’re sorry they didn’t do that.”

I find this especially troubling considering the expensive recent improvements at Haar’s. The drive-in bought a digital projector in 2013, a new screen in 2016, and Hardy told ABC27 that they had spent thousands more this year.

I’ve got a warm spot in my heart for the Dillsburg drive-in where I concluded my virtual Drive-In-A-Day Odyssey a couple of years ago. It’s a great example of a family-owned drive-in, the kind that won’t close just because their land has become valuable. But if they don’t own that land, well, let’s just hope that Haar’s can find a way to stay in business for many years to come.

Another CA Drive-In Up For Sale

Hi-Way Drive-In marquee at night
Photo from the Hi-Way Drive-In Facebook page

Now this is a worrying trend. Less than a week after Montclair CA’s Mission Tiki Drive-in Theatre announced it had been sold and would soon close, the Hi-Way Drive-In of Santa Maria is listed for sale at a commercial real estate web site.

As reported by KEYT (Santa Barbara’s News Leader), KSBY (San Luis Obispo’s News Leader), and the Tribune of San Luis Obispo, Lee & Associates is listing 8.89 acres of land that happens to have a drive-in on top of it. The price is a bit odd: $3.33 million. The web site says it’s already zoned for senior housing, medical, or office space, and “The City of Santa Maria is also encouraging a potential shift to residential development”.

As I wrote a couple of years ago during my virtual visit there, the Hi-Way opened in 1959. Twenty years later, Bob Gran, who already owned Santa Maria’s older Park Aire Drive-In, bought the Hi-Way.

All three news sources report that they have reached out to the Hi-Way’s owners for more information. Let’s hope that there’s a way to keep this local institution operating as a drive-in for years to come.