Dec. 16: Midway Twin Drive In Theater, Ravenna OH

It’s Day 350 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. On a snowy mid-December day, it took less than an hour to drive from the Mayfield Road Drive-In Theatre, a few miles south of Chardon OH to the Midway Twin Drive In Theater, halfway along the road between Kent OH and Ravenna OH.

For a drive-in with its own Wikipedia page, the Midway Twin’s history sure is muddy. As I type, it says the drive-in was built in 1955, which is obviously wrong. The May 6, 2005 Daily Kent Stater said the Midway was built in 1949, but I don’t think that’s right either.

The Midway’s first advertisement in the Akron Beacon Journal, in which it said it was “now open”, was July 27, 1950. On July 21, 1952, the Midway ad said “tonight only” was “Our Anniversary” and promised a giant fireworks display. My guess is that this drive-in opened on Friday, July 21, 1950.

What is beyond dispute is that the drive-in was designed and built by Jack Vogel and owned by the Vogel family until at least the late 1980s. The next questions are when was the drive-in sold to current owner John Knepp, and when did it add a second screen. The first time the Beacon Journal called it the Midway Twin was in June 1989 in reference to a nearby traffic accident. The Wikipedia entry said it was Knepp who added the second screen. The Daily Kent Stater said Knepp bought the Midway in 1990. I don’t know which of those is right.

The Beacon Journal wrote in August 1997, “The Midway’s obituary was almost written just a few years ago. That was when Wal-Mart came knocking. The money offered was not enough to agree to a buyout of his long-term lease on the Midway land, said John Knepp. … This spring, a Wal-Mart opened on a site west of the theater.” It’s still there.

That Wikipedia entry says the original screen tower “was destroyed by a winter storm in December 2000” and replaced before the 2001 season.

The Midway Twin converted to digital projection in 2013, as documented by the Kent Record-Courier. “It’s good to keep something like this going because with less than 400 nationwide, it’s kind of an elite status to be involved in something like this,” said general manager Mike Marxen.

Earlier this year when Disney demanded higher fees and other concessions from drive-ins that wanted to show Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Knepp joined a loose coalition of regional theaters that refused to show it.

The embedded YouTube video of the day is from my pal Jeffrey Edling. He’s got a thing about going to drive-ins and recording a gentle 360-degree sweep to show exactly what it was like. I hope you like it.

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

Miles Today / Total: 29 / 39136 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: dark / 200

Nearby Restaurant: Since I was staying near the Kent State campus (see below), I looked for lunch there too. I found what I was looking for at the Main Street Continental Grill. It’s a little Greek hole in the wall, but I found the spinach and meat pies to be very interesting. One shish kabob sandwich later, I knew why so many locals were grabbing their takeout orders here.

Where I Virtually Stayed: Google told me the closest hotel was on the other side of the midway point at the Kent State University Hotel. It was a little pricey, but since it’s in the middle of the Kent State area, I’ll bet it’s an especially good choice for college visitors. My king studio had all the modern amenities, and breakfast gave me what I needed to face another cold day.

Only in Ravenna Kent: Kent State has come to terms with its signature event. On May 4, 1970, the Ohio National Guard fired into a crowd of unarmed Vietnam War protesters, killing four and wounding nine others. The May 4th Visitor Center provides a memorial to the victims and presents the context of the shooting’s times.

Next stop: Skyway Twin Drive-In Theatre, Warren OH.