July 26: Skyline Drive-In Theatre, Shelbyville IN

It’s Day 207 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. It would have been just as fast if I’d driven to Indianapolis then back down, but I spent an hour picking my way due east from the CenterBrook Drive-In, seven miles north of Martinsville IN, to the Skyline Drive-In Theatre east of Shelbyville IN.

The Skyline was built by Robert Wilcox and a partner in 1950, just after he left the Air Force, and has apparently been operating ever since. The Switow family theater company acquired it later in the 1950s, then the Dewitt family got it, probably in the 1970s. Indianapolis Monthly wrote that Joe Gaudin bought the Skyline “from its original owners” in 2009; although Wilcox passed away just last April, I find no evidence that he ever repurchased his creation.

This is a fun place with a full arcade, which every drive-in should have. It hosts music shows and 35mm film nights in addition to standard weekend first-run movies. This June, it hosted a Dog-a-Palooza drive-in night to benefit Shelby County Animal Shelter. In July, it held a fireworks show during intermission. When you see the friendly, inventive faces in their RealSceneTV YouTube video, embedded above, you’ll get a good idea of what the atmosphere is like here.

The Skyline likes to host dusk-to-dawn monster movie marathons; the next pair are scheduled for the last weekend in August. According to a December 2014 report by Indiana Public Media, the Skyline stays open until early December, closing each season with a free Christmas movie event. “Christmas movies are the only genre of movies that people will watch over and over again. Every year they’ll watch A Christmas Story or It’s a Wonderful Life, and it becomes a tradition for people,” Gaudin said. “My plan is for this to become a tradition for people.”

The last Wednesday of every month is Indie SINsations month, showcasing a pair of drive-in-worthy independent films. This night’s first feature was Pool Party Massacre, released this April, which is a perfect low-budget slasher parody / homage. That movie, plus the tenderloin between pretzels “pretzeloin” sandwich, made it a night to remember. For the last nine nights, I’ve seen movies that are different from each other; that’s my longest streak since Feb. 1. I hope it continues.

Miles Today / Total:  44 / 25934 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: Pool Party Massacre / 123

Nearby Restaurant: I like quirky, quiet places to eat sometimes. I like donuts most times. Put them together, and you’ve got Linne’s Bakery and Deli, just a couple of blocks south of the town square parking lot. I enjoyed the Shelbyville steak sandwich with roast beef, Swiss and onions for lunch, then procured a few cake donuts for sustenance on the road. What a neat old place!

Where I Virtually Stayed: The Comfort Inn in Shelbyville was a real bargain, keeping a few $20s in my pocket compared to my usual chain hotels. It’s a well maintained older Comfort Inn, and my room had all the modern conveniences. Breakfast was the standard Comfort Inn of waffles, eggs, fruit, and the usual suspects. It was all I needed, and I appreciated the price.

Only in Shelbyville: In 1981, the Indianapolis Star wrote “Charles Major, the Indiana author who brought fame to Shelbyville with his novels of English knighthood and pioneer days in America is perhaps best known today for The Bears of Blue River.” (News to me; I always thought of the city as the rival of Homer Simpson’s Springfield.) Anyway, a statue of protagonist Brent “Little” Balser with arms raised holding two bear cubs graces the north side of the Shelbyville town square parking lot.

Next stop: M.E.L.S. at the Starlite Drive-In Theatre, Thorntown IN.