July 2: Cinema 67 Drive-in, Spencer IN

It’s Day 183 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. The halfway point! For every drive-in around here that’s open on weeknights, there’s another that only does weekends, so I set out from Litchfield IL towards the closest one that would be open on Sundays but not Mondays. That’s why I drove three hours east to the Cinema 67 Drive-in a few miles north of Spencer IN.

Before I start, I want to mention that the YouTube video I embedded above is a fun little tour of the Cinema 67, but it was posted at the end of the 2011 season. The grounds look a lot better these days, as you can see on the Cinema 67’s Facebook page.

According to Cinema Treasures, the Cinema 67 opened as the Records Drive-In in 1957. An article in the Indianapolis Monthly picks up the drive-in’s tale in the 1970s. It wrote that “an aging businessman and his pretty young wife had purchased the drive-in … and hoped Owen County would accept their breed of (X-rated) entertainment.” Since the screen was visible from Highway 67, that didn’t work out.

In came Jon Walker, who bought a drive-in with broken speakers, back-row fights between rival high schoolers, and weak attendance. He changed its name to the Cinema 67 to signal a fresh start. He switched to FM radio, first removing most of the in-car speakers then all of them. He hired security to stop the fights, and the warring teenagers went away. Which did not immediately help the attendance problem. “We stopped all that monkey business,” Walker said. “Well, that stopped our business, too.”

Over time, the improvements lured the family crowd that would sustain the Cinema 67. It made the transition to digital projection and continues to promise “Lots of great food and great entertainment on the screen and under the screen”.

I settled in to watch my new best friend, Despicable Me 3, for the third time in four nights. As I munched on my burrito in a box and sipped my hot coffee, I wondered, where did the Minions come from? A Despicable Me wiki claims they’re “invincible and immortal,” and that they came into existence “3.8 billion years ago”. Hmm.

Miles Today / Total:  184 / 23377 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: Despicable Me 3 / 99

Nearby Restaurant: After a fairly long drive, my eyes lit up when I saw the sign for Chambers Smorgasboard. That meant a buffet, and you know how I love buffets. The fried chicken was good enough for a chicken restaurant, and that was just the beginning of the meats and veggies available. Top it off with hot fresh bread and apple butter, and I hardly needed dessert, but there was some pecan pie. Ahh!

Where I Virtually Stayed: There aren’t any of those fancy modern chain hotels around here, but I had a great night at the Canyon Inn inside McCormick’s Creek State Park right next to Spencer. This place has been around for 100 years, but they maintain it nicely. My small room in the historic east wing just had a shower, but that’s all I use anyway. The peace and quiet were a nice break, and the breakfast in the hotel restaurant was worth paying for.

Only in Spencer: There’s a giant rooster statue on a pedestal at the corner of East and Cooper Streets. According to Roadside Architecture, that’s the Owen County Fairgrounds. It was originally located at a restaurant in town which closed.

Next stop: Route 66 Twin Drive-In, Springfield IL.