Dec. 13: Blue Sky Drive In Theater, Wadsworth OH

It’s Day 347 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. Although they’re technically in different cities, it took me less than 15 minutes to drive from the Magic City Drive In, southwest of Barberton OH to the Blue Sky Drive In Theater in Wadsworth.

According to its About Us page, “The Blue Sky was built and opened by Dale Morrison in 1947. He operated it for five years and to the best of my understanding sold it to Selected Theaters who operated it until Gary Grieve purchased it in 1980. The original screen was wood. The street side had twinkling stars that folks drove by just to see. The large speakers on the sides of the screen could be heard all the way to Doylestown on a clear night.”

Most of those details match the newspaper records and what Cinema Treasures said about it. Morrison, a farmer who later (or always?) lived next door to the Blue Sky, opened it on July 4, 1947. Reportedly, the drive-in had been part of his fruit orchard, and his farm was large enough that an account of an elementary school field trip decades later still called it the “Dale Morrison farm” even though it was then owned by someone else.

In April 1950, the Blue Sky Drive-In opened the season with new RCA in-car speakers, so those loudspeakers only lasted the first three years. Earl Seitz bought it in January 1952. A newspaper report that year said, “The nine-acre lot is large enough for 430 cars and provides a large picnic area for those who care to take their supper out.”

There was a minor flap in May 1955 when the Blue Sky said it would show French Follies. Parts of the community rose up against such a risque feature, and the drive-in backed down, swapping in conventional films at the last minute.

Cinema Treasures says that Seitz sold the Blue Sky to Sam and Jay Schultz in January 1956, but a 1961 newspaper article about a different theater mentioned that Seitz still owned the Blue Sky.

Gary Grieve leased the drive-in in 1980 and purchased it in 1984. In 1997, he told The Akron Beacon Journal that the folks who frequented nearby drive-ins that had closed were looking to go elsewhere. “I think all four of them (the surviving drive-ins) have benefited from the demise of the others,” he said.

Grieve was still the owner in 2013 when Blue Sky general manager Jeff Davis asked fans to vote in Honda’s Project Drive-In, but I guess the drive-in found a new digital projector elsewhere because it’s still going strong.

The embedded YouTube video of the day is another from Outdoor Moovies, shot in 2005 and uploaded in 2009.

The drive-in closed for the season in October, and I’m glad it’s in good shape to return next spring.

Miles Today / Total: 6 / 39021 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: dark / 200

Nearby Restaurant: On another snowy day when the drive-in is closed (of course), I again went looking for comfort food. I found it at the Valley Cafe, where I enjoyed their signature dish of shrimp and crispy grit cakes. That plus plenty of coffee warmed my insides against the wintry assault outside.

Where I Virtually Stayed: Since the closest hotels to my drive-in of the night before were right here in Wadsworth, I had the pleasure of settling in to the same room for two nights, a particularly strong benefit on a snow day. The Comfort Inn continued to work out fine. There’s a restaurant and lounge adjacent to the hotel. My room had the full set of modern amenities. Breakfast had hot food along with the continental favorites. I just needed to scrape off the windshield to start another trek.

Only in Wadsworth: Every year, Wadsworth holds a five-day Blue Tip Festival, which starts with a parade and the lighting of a 20-foot blue tip match. The festival then offers attendants their choice of amusement rides, festival foods, midway games, contests, and other entertainment. The festival is named after the historic strike-anywhere blue tip matches which were once manufactured in Wadsworth.

Next stop: Aut-O-Rama Twin Drive In, North Ridgeville OH.