Milky Way provides another kind of drive-in

photo of the Milky Way Drive-In screen at twilight
Photo from the Milky Way Drive-In Facebook page

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.

Motor Vu returns to life

Detail of a screen capture of a KPVI news video

Yaknow, it really disappointed me in 2017 when the healthy-looking Motor Vu Drive-In in Idaho Falls ID failed to answer the summer bell (the spring calendar?) in 2017, which I noted when I “visited” in in my Drive-In-A Day Odyssey that year. So I’m doubly happy to learn that it’s active again, including four benefit dates scheduled for 2022.

As reported by KPVI, Pocatello ID’s News Leader, the Ronald McDonald House of Charities of Idaho is promoting the series this year, with all of the gate proceeds going to the charity. Each of the Thursday night double features will start with a Jurassic Park movie, followed by another recent classic.

I’m always happy for any news that lets me flip the On switch in my drive-in database, although I’m embarassed that I didn’t notice it earlier. (Apparently this is its third season back, coinciding with our third year of Covid.) And as the Motor Vu’s marquee shows, it’s also open for regular movies on weekends. It’s one of the oldest drive-ins (1947) in the West, and it’s great to have it back.

Riverdale UT’s Motor-Vu won’t reopen

Motor-Vu Drive-In marquee, with the box office in the background
Detail of a screen capture from a KUTV news video

After some happy news of late, I’ve got some sad news to report. Riverdale UT’s Motor-Vu Drive-In had been a good example of the resurgence of ozoner interest, but it won’t reopen this year. That’s based on a report from KUTV, Salt Lake City’s News Leader, which said that the Motor-Vu had been rezoned for housing and sold to a developer.

The Motor-Vu started in 1947 with only one screen, and that’s what it had when Brent Coleman’s father had purchased the drive-in in 1979. He added two more screens in the 1980s, and the fourth arrived in 1996. In a 2016 newspaper article, Coleman mentioned that it stayed in the family during the following decades, then owned by him and two brothers. “I love movies, and I’ve never known anything else,” Brent said.

The KUTV article mentioned that it had reached out ” to the owners of Motor-Vu Drive-In but did not hear back.” It’s a darned shame when a perfectly good, well attended drive-in gets wiped out for a housing development. It’s all the more reason to appreciate the ones that are alive while we still have them.