Five South Dakota drive-ins may close soon

decrepit drive-in screen in South Dakota

The Starlite Drive-In near Aberdeen SD as it looked in 1987. photo by Earl Leatherberry, used by permission

The Daily Republic of Mitchell SD published a long, thoughtful, well-researched article about the state of drive-in theaters there, and the news is rather gloomy.

According to the article, “Of South Dakota’s seven drive-in theaters, only two confirmed they will be open next summer. Miller’s Midway Drive-In and Hermosa’s Roy’s Black Hills Drive-In are already using digital equipment”. The other five are the Starlite (which we discussed a few weeks ago) in Mitchell, the Hilltop in Gregory, the Pheasant in Mobridge, the Pheasant City in Redfield, and the Winner in Winner, all of which “either say their future is uncertain, or have already said they will close.”

I can’t do justice to the lengthy Daily Republic article, which is full of quotes from the people who own and operate these drive-ins. I’ll give you just one of them, from 70-year-old Tom Gallup, who bought the Pheasant City in 1972. “It’s more of a community service,” he said. “When you get to the end of the year, you hope you’ve paid the bills and you can supply your utilities over the winter. You hang in there and try to provide a community service because once it’s gone, it’s gone.” For the rest of it, including a photo of the old, dead Pix Drive-In in Winner, plus the perspectives of the owner of the drive-in that just opened last year, you really should go read it!