What it takes to be almost a drive-in

photo from the MAIN Facebook page

photo from the MAIN Facebook page

When you think of a drive-in theater, you’ve got a picture in your head. If someone asks you whether a given business is a drive-in theater, it’s usually a pretty easy call. I wrote about this a couple of months ago, and now there’s a fledgling business in West Virginia that illustrates the gray area between Yes and No.

From all indications, MAIN Movies has been doing a great public service. This summer, it launched by showing free movies on a field owned by the Belpre OH Volunteer Fire Department, selling concession items and asking for donations to defray licensing fees. As chronicled in the Parkersburg News and Sentinel, owners JD and Leann Nicolais named their company after three daughters (Madison, the late Arabella, and Isabelle) and their family name.

MAIN used an inflatable screen and a “compact but powerful projector” that couldn’t handle rain. They had earlier tried something similar in Parkersburg’s City Park. “We just saw a need for cheap entertainment, for families to come out and literally spend $10 for a whole family to watch a movie,” JD said. It was outdoors, but everyone used lawn chairs or blankets, so it definitely wasn’t a drive-in.

According to the prolific posts on MAIN’s Facebook page, in early August they decided to switch to a true drive-in format and needed a “place to leave a screen up”. After asking around, the family settled on the 4H campground across the Ohio River in Mineral Wells WV. MAIN ran a haunted woods attraction in October and movies most weekends, though the battles with precipitation were exacerbated by the possibility of flooding.

A few days ago, the Marietta OH Times ran a story of the new drive-in. The MAIN charged just $8 per carload and sold pizza, snacks and sodas. From the story and a few Facebook posts, after a few weeks at the new location, they built a new 24-foot screen, larger than the inflatable one. “The screen is temporary and completely movable,” JD said. “But the goal is to find a permanent location that will allow us to have a larger, permanent screen.”

The Times story ran on November 5. The same day, MAIN posted on Facebook, “Looking for a business opportunity? We have decided to move and would like to leave the business here. You will receive every single thing we have for movies including an inflatable screen.”

A campground with a permanent drive-in screen and regularly scheduled movies? That sounds like Sokol Park in suburban Omaha NE. But a temporary screen, erratic schedule, and an owner that’s leaving the business? New management might change the situation, but for now I’d say that MAIN Movies is almost a drive-in.