Longtime readers know that I love any drive-in video that I can embed for you. In this case, the story is a windstorm that damaged the former main screen of the Sky Vue Drive-In in Winchester KY.
You can see by this not-that-old photo at CinemaTreasures that the Sky Vue’s big screen and sign were still in good shape when it closed in 2015, one of the few casualties of the conversion to digital movies. Reportedly, there were fans who were trying to find a way to reopen the drive-in. Sadly, any of those plans just got more complicated.
Thanks to WLEX, Lexington’s News Leader, for giving us all a glimpse of what’s left of the Sky Vue. I wonder whether any of those marquee letters are still laying there along US 60.
Trivia that was accurate as of last week: Of the (about) 311 active US drive-ins, four of them are located by the city or town of Franklin in four different states. The first three are the Milky Way Drive-In in Wisconsin, Warner’s Drive-In in West Virginia, and Canary Creek Cinemas in Indiana.
Today, those are the only three. On Monday, the owners of the Franklin Drive-In in Kentucky announced that they had sold the place, and that it would no longer operate as a drive-in theater. There were several local news organizations reporting the story, but I don’t think any of them had any more to work with than the Franklin’s original Facebook post. WBKO, Bowling Green’s News Leader, posted a video anyway of mostly file footage, which is better than nothing.
Of course, I virtually visited the Franklin in 2017 during my 2017 Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. As I wrote then, the drive-in was a literal stone’s throw from Tennessee and less than 40 miles away from Nashville. The Franklin was family owned and operated since 1969, most recently by the Prices and their families. It began its life as the 31W or 31 West Drive-In, since that’s the highway that it’s on, and changed its name to the Franklin some time after the demise of the original Franklin Drive-In, which operated on Russellville Road from 1960 until some time around 1980.
The closure announcement noted that the Franklin “has been in our family for 33 years and we bought it from the original family who built it.” The owners blamed traffic (huh?), light pollution, and the rise of streaming services for their decision. I always thought that traffic was a good thing, with more motorists seeing your marquee, but light is definitely an issue in a lot of places. Since the dawn of television, it’s always been the main opponent for theaters in general; the solution is to provide an experience you can’t get at home.
But it’s always possible that the Franklin’s owners just got a nice retirement-funding purchase offer and took it. It’s just a shame that they couldn’t find someone else ready to keep the movie nights going.
Somerset KY’s 27 Twin Drive-In, open since 1967, won’t reopen for the 2022 season. That was announced on its Facebook page and relayed by WKYT, Lexington’s News Leader.
Owner Brenda Roaden wrote that “the combination of many factors has damaged the viability of the operation.” I don’t know what that means. Could it be that attendance had dropped off?
WKYT reported that Roaden will continue to maintain the grounds, which might lead one to hope that someone new could swoop in to buy the place and get it running again. One Facebook commenter said he expects it to become “a subdivision or strip mall”.
The 27 opened in 1967 with one screen, then added a second in 1980. Let’s hope those screens stay standing, and that someone arrives to light them up again.