Video: Quasar Gets OK To Build

The Douglas County (NE) Board gave unanimous approval yesterday to a new drive-in theater northwest of Omaha. The Quasar is the brainchild of Jeff and Jennifer Karls, who said they hope to have it open by Memorial Day 2019.

According to the Omaha World-Herald, the drive-in will have room for about 400 cars watching a single 50-by-100-foot screen. Original plans called for a second screen, but that was shelved after the couple met with opponent Keith Hoffman, whose farm is nearby.

The Karlses told WOWT, Omaha’s News Leader, that the plot of land is perfect because they wanted “country dark, country quiet.” It’s so quiet that the main road to the drive-in is still unpaved, which the couple said they might help fix later.

“It’s been nearly a year since we bought the land, and we’ve been going through this process since the week after we closed. It’s exciting to be able to move forward now,” Jeff said.

A lot of drive-ins have been qualifying for popular movies by shifting them to a second screen after a couple of weeks, still satisfying the contractual minimum. I hope that the Quasar will be able to add that in the future, but for now, it’s just great to hear about another drive-in on its way!

Couple Hopes To Build Drive-In NW Of Omaha

Miniature drive-in theater, as from a model train set

This is definitely NOT a scale model for the Nebraska project, but I’ve been waiting a long time for an excuse to share it. Photo by dididumm from the Carload Flickr pool

The Omaha World-Herald (subscription) reported yesterday that Jenny and Jeff Karls of Fremont NE want to break ground on what would be the Quasar Drive-In on state Highway 36 a few miles east of US Highway 275. They project that to be about a 25-minute drive northwest of Omaha.

The couple are seeking a permit from Douglas County for their plan to convert farmland to a single-screen drive-in, with the possibility of adding a second screen later. This morning, the Douglas County Board postponed a vote on the project until Feb. 6, according to the World-Herald, to give the Karlses time to work with their neighbors about concerns they raised.

“There are more new-construction drive-in theaters being built now than there have been in decades,” Jeff Karls said. The couple told the World-Herald that the idea came to them while watching a movie at a drive-in “in Pittsburgh” (maybe the Dependable in suburban Moon PA?) on their honeymoon in 2013. It looks like Jeff has a Pinterest page titled Quasar Drive In Theater, so you can go there to see some possible inspirations for his project. That appears to be the first time a drive-in theater has used that name, probably because the word “quasar” wasn’t coined until 1964.

The Karlses first tried a site in Gretna only to be turned back by not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) neighbors and the Gretna Planning Commission. For the current site, that NIMBY neighbor might be Tanner Hoffman, who raised the objections that caused the board to postpone the vote. Board Chairman Chris Rodgers told the Karlses that they aren’t required to make the neighbors happy, but to give negotiation a chance. Let’s hope that the county sees the wisdom of adding a bit of life to this sparsely populated part of the state.

June 8: Falconwood, Bellevue NE

Outdoor screen with cars lined up

photo from the Falconwood Facebook page

It’s Day 159 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. I doubled back from Newton IA, zooming west for two and a half hours on I-80 to the Falconwood in Bellevue NE, just south of Omaha.

This drive-in launched in what was Sokol Park in June 2016. (They changed their name sometime over the intervening winter.) Although they probably weren’t thinking about meeting any particular standard, it barely qualifies as a drive-in theater.

The Falconwood web site proclaims that “Falconwood Park is an all-encompassing arts and entertainment venue specializing in weddings, concerts, drive-in movies, and home of Hullabaloo Music Festival.” So movies are pretty low in the priority list. Patrons are allowed to park elsewhere and watch while sitting on the grass. The movies are old, and the erratic schedule rarely includes weekend nights.

“It would be hard to sustain a business as a drive-in alone,” co-owner Brandon Miller told the Omaha World-Herald in May 2016. “But in our case, we’ve got so many other events this summer. Weddings, concerts, festivals, company picnics and family reunions. That’s going to allow us to throw in these drive-in movie nights and see how it goes.”

Anyway, I think the Falconwood qualifies. Movies are open to the public to drive over and watch from their cars. There’s a screen in a permanent location. The schedule includes more than a couple of nights a year. So even though it looks almost nothing like a 1950s drive-in, it’s still a drive-in, and it’s a wonderful service for the ozoner-starved residents of the Omaha area.

This new wave of drive-in has some intriguing differences, including dinner from food trucks, alcohol from a bar, and the usual suspects at the concession stand. Tickets are sold on the Eventbrite smartphone app. And just like at every other drive-in, folks show up to have a good time.

As I said, the drive-in at Falconwood is unusual in that it typically doesn’t show movies on weekends. That’s why I went a little out of my way to make sure that I caught it on a Thursday movie night. Rogue One was the first movie that I saw when I started my odyssey in Florida in January, and I was a little surprised to see it again.

Miles Today / Total:  176 / 20640 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: Rogue One / 75

Nearby Restaurant: I’d been sustaining myself on comfort food from small-town diners, so it was time for a change. Korean Grill Egg Rolls to Go is about as far from a diner as you can get. Amazingly authentic Korean food in large portions (okay, the large portions match the diner) and fresh ginger tea. It’s a great way to keep my taste buds from complacency!

Where I Virtually Stayed: Oh, Hampton Inn, how I had missed you! A sure sign of larger cities or busier highways, this Hampton delivered on all of its midscale, friendly Hampton-ness. Cookies and drinks waiting for me at check-in. A mini-fridge and microwave in my room. The standard hot Hampton breakfast in a spacious breakfast room. For all the days I’ve been on the road, this was the hotel equivalent of comfort food.

Only in Bellevue: As mentioned in Roadside America, at the northwest corner of Offutt Air Force Base you can gaze upon the very first military gray B-52G from 1959. It’s mounted on a pedestal, behind a fence, and it’s amongst some trees to discourage you from taxiing it away.

Next stop: Elko Drive-In Theater, Elko New Market MN.