There’s big news on Colorado’s Western Slope. George Rodriguez is the new owner of Delta’s Tru Vu Drive-In, as reported by KREX, Grand Junction’s News Leader. Actually, there’s been a lot of Tru Vu news over the past five years, so let me get you caught up.
When we last left the Tru Vu Drive-In in Delta CO, it was an early stop in my 2017 Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. I’ve written a lot about it since then, but it’s all been in my book, Drive-Ins of Colorado. If you’re a Carload completist with a copy of that book, you can skip down a couple of paragraphs.
After only a cursory check on the Tru Vu’s history, I wrote in my Odyssey stop there that it opened in 1954. That may or may not be accurate. Another passage was extremely off the mark: “A lot of drive-in theaters have some drama associated with them. They add screens, they lose screens. They shut down for a while, and sometimes reopen. Not the Tru Vu.” I couldn’t have been more wrong – in its first 15 years, the Tru Vu had the most tumultuous life of any drive-in I’ve heard of. That section took up two full pages in the book, and it’s beyond the scope of this post. Everything quieted down in 1968 when Jeannie and Stanley Dewsnup bought it along with Delta’s other theaters.
Stanley passed away in 2008, and Jeannie continued to operate the Tru Vu until she died in April 2019. James Lane and his family stepped in to run the drive-in only to hit the headwind that was the 2020 start to the Covid pandemic. He will always have a warm place in my heart, not just for this unselfish work, but also for giving me permission to use a photo of the Tru Vu for my book cover.
Now that we’re caught up, here’s the news from December 2022. Rodriguez began working with Jeannie Dewsnup in 1997 and became her “right hand” according to KREX. His daughter Jessikah Rodriguez remembered getting on a crane when her dad was painting the screen. Now the family is planning to embrace a 50s vibe and stay open longer. Sounds great!
I’m always happy to have any excuse to embed a drive-in video, and good news from a Colorado drive-in makes it even better. I hope you’ll agree that this was worth the wait.
We can always use a bit of good news, as was published in this morning’s Pueblo Chieftain. Marcella Snyder and her husband Jon Parkin, already the owners of the Tibbs Drive-In in Indianapolis, have purchased the Mesa Drive-In in Pueblo CO. They’re working on upgrades to the plumbing and a few other items, and are looking to reopen around Memorial Day weekend.
The slightly sad part of the story is a farewell to Chuck and Marianne James, longtime supporters of this blog, who are retiring. They had owned the Mesa since they saved it from the bulldozers in 1994. In 2000, they added two screens to their drive-in from others in Colorado that had closed. After those decades of stewardship, it’s so nice that they found another drive-in enthusiast to take over.
In honor of the transition, the Chieftain produced a nice little slideshow video documenting some of the Mesa’s history. I would note that there are significantly more than 200 active drive-ins in the US, but that’s a minor quibble. Let’s all be happy that this Colorado landmark shows every sign of staying active for decades to come.
According to that story, which reads a lot like a press release, “With its original 1948 screen tower still standing tall, The Rubidoux is the last of the classic drive-in theaters remaining in Southern California.” That might be a surprise to the Van Buren Drive-In Theatre, also in Riverside, which might think that opening in 1964 makes it old enough to be classic. Not to mention the Mission Tiki (1956) or the Vineland (1955), also in the Los Angeles area, or the Santee (1956) or the South Bay (1958) further south. But I digress.
The fun part about this story is the element of man bites dog. Historically, drive-ins added flea markets to add daytime revenue. Although there’s at least one former drive-in site that’s now only a flea market, this is the first I’ve heard of a flea market company diversifying into drive-in movies.
“Flea markets and swap meets serve as community gathering spaces where people come together and have a good time,” said Rob Sieban, head of United Flea Markets. “What better way to encapsulate that vision than through movie night?” Sounds like fun to me.