From as far back as the 1950s, there were “inventors” promoting various schemes and systems to allow drive-in theaters to show movies during the day. Some of them, such as reflective screen coatings, added just a few minutes of twilight time, but most of them were just buckets of air.
I thought of that as I surveyed the news about Franklin WI’s Milky Way Drive-In, which doesn’t depend on darkness for its shows. Its secret is a 40-foot LED wall, so it doesn’t even need a projector.
The Milky Way opened on May 22, 2020, another pandemic-fueled return to the natural ventilation and social distancing of our favorite way of watching movies. It’s set up in the parking lot of the stadium of an independent baseball team, the Milwaukee Milkmen, so it uses the stadium’s infrastructure for concessions and rest rooms.
We’ll continue to talk in the weeks ahead about what is a drive-in theater and what isn’t. Although it uses a shared parking lot without ramps, the Milky Way is clearly on the right side of the line. A permanent screen and regularly scheduled showings ensure that it belongs on the Carload drive-in theater list.
Sorry that I had overlooked this one for so long. (Tip of the hat to OnMilwaukee’s Matt Mueller, who listed the Milky Way with all of the state’s active drive-ins except Shawano’s Moonlight Outdoor.) There were so many pop-up drive-ins in 2020 that it was hard to pick out the deserving ozoners. A drive-in without darkness is still a drive-in, a type that exhibitors have wanted for over 70 years.