Video: Construction May Begin Soon On Graham NC Drive-In

The couple that owns the indoor theater in Graham NC says that they’ll soon be able to break ground on a new drive-in there. Sitting on a 34-acre lot just north of the interstate, the I-40 Drive-In will have room for about 1000 cars watching five screens, plus a restaurant, a playground, and mini golf.

Jennifer and Chuck Talley announced the project last March, as shown in the embedded video above from WFMY, Greensboro’s News Leader. (By the way, that’s a fine video if you were ever curious what a drive-in looks like before they break ground for it.) Back then, they had hoped it would be ready to open this spring. However, the Burlington Times-News reported this week that progress had been slowed by land preparation issues.

Chuck Talley told the News Leader that the drive-in had to have proper facilities to handle water drainage. “We’re making sure we have the retaining ponds and other things in place,” he said. Groundbreaking is now expected to take place this spring, followed by “six to eight months” of construction.

When the Triad Business Journal interviewed Jennifer Talley in March, she said the plan was inspired by Martin Murray, a co-owner of Graham’s indoor theater. She said Murray, a native of Alamance County NC, owns the four-screen Town and Country Drive-In Theatre in Abilene TX and the seven-screen Galaxy Drive-In Movie Theatre in Ennis.

“She said they’re optimistic the venture will succeed, and believes the Triad’s relatively mild climate makes conditions ideal for a drive-in theater,” wrote the Business Journal. Jennifer also said they hope to host car shows and music festivals at the I-40. Sounds like they’ve got a solid plan together, and I look forward to hearing more about it later this year.


Nov. 20: Sunset Drive In Theatre, Shelby NC

Sunset Drive-In marquee

Photo from the Sunset Drive-In Facebook page

It’s Day 324 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. After catching a Sunday night movie, I was back on the road for another 3½ hours from the Raleigh Road Outdoor Theatre in Henderson NC to the Sunset Drive In Theatre just west of Shelby NC.

The Sunset opened around 1952 and was owned by the regional Colonial Theatres chain until the 1980s. Colonial was based in Valdese NC, and at the time it built or acquired the Sunset, it’s first drive-in, the chain was run by general manager G. D. Carpenter.

Rick Stinnett, whose family built and ran the Bessemer City Kings Mountain Drive-In until it closed after the 2014 season, bought the Sunset in 1984. He spent $100,000 to remodel and convert the projection room in early 2014.

“This is something I’ve done all my life,” Stinnett told The Charlotte Observer that year. “I don’t know what else I’d do.”

And I’m sad to say that’s about all I could find about the Sunset Drive-In. I’m glad it’s still alive, but it won’t be until next spring that it’ll be showing movies again. It’s just another dark night in November for me.

Miles Today / Total: 230 / 37067 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: dark / 194

Nearby Restaurant: The Shelby Cafe serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and after too many days of too long drives, I wanted some comfort food. The chicken pot pie with green beans and mashed potatoes was perfect for my mood, and glancing at the breakfast menu, I knew I’d be back soon.

Where I Virtually Stayed: I took a chance on something called WoodSpring Suites because it was well-regarded yet less than half the cost of the Hampton Inn. It’s one of those places designed for long-term stays, complete with full refrigerators in the rooms, but they’re willing to rent by the night. The rooms are uncomplicated, but mine had everything I needed. I was on my own for breakfast, but The Shelby Cafe had me covered.

Only in Shelby: Shelby is home to the Earl Scruggs Center, a museum and event space celebrating combines the life story of legendary five-string banjo master and Cleveland County native, Earl Scruggs. He learned to play in nearby Flint Hill and began his three-finger playing style best known for its use on the Beverly Hillbillies Theme.

Next stop: Stateline Drive-in, Elizabethton TN.

Nov. 19: Raleigh Road Outdoor Theatre (Part 2), Henderson NC

It’s Day 323 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. This day marked what I hope will be a singular oddity this year – I’m returning to a drive-in because its digital projector was on the fritz on my first visit. Which is why I drove 3½ hours from Hound’s Drive-In in Kings Mountain NC back to the Raleigh Road Outdoor Theatre in Henderson NC.

If you’ll recall, the Raleigh Road opened as the Moon-Glo in 1949 and changed its name after it was bought in 1977 by N.T. “Tinker” Lyles. (I now notice the Warren Record says the name change was at the insistence of the former owner, Sonny Stevenson.) When we last left our story, Mark and Jennifer Frank had purchased the drive-in in late 2011 from Megan and Jim Kopp, who we’ve since met again as the current owner of the Family Drive-In.

The Fayetteville Observer wrote in 2015 that the Franks had owned and operated the Keysville Drive-In in Keysville VA, which reopened for a few years beginning in 2009, but sold it to focus on the Raleigh Road. “I just got this cockamamie idea I was going to resurrect a drive-in movie theater,” he said of entering the outdoor business.

The Raleigh Road’s 80×60 foot screen is made of roofing materials, and the concessions building, now including a digital projector as well as the kitchen, looks much as it did in 1949. “I call it a bunker,” Mark said with a laugh.

The Observer also noted that the Raleigh Road’s capacity is 265 cars, are there have nights where they’ve had to turn away cars 45 minutes before showtime. “Most Fridays or Saturdays,” Mark said, “you better get there early or you might not get in.”

IndyWeek ran a story in 2014 in advance of the drive-in’s conversion to digital projection. “We’ve done some of the work already,” Mark said. “We had to redo the electrical; the building is from 1949. We’re basically going from a 1957 Chevy, very simple to work on, to the world’s biggest iPad.”

For a really nice story of what the drive-in is like these days, you should read the article / review written just two months ago by Kay Whatley at the Grey Area News. “Being outside under the sky, later all the stars, was cool as heck,” she wrote. There are also a half-dozen photos, so you really should go read it!

The embedded video of the day is from Vimeo, a short with the Franks when they were still using film. I like the way it shows off the “bunker” concession stand and other parts of the Raleigh Road. You might also want to check out the Facebook Live videos that the staff whipped up this season.

This was my third viewing of Justice League in four days. Thor: Ragnarok, which I’ve also seen three times, was better. Just sayin’.

Miles Today / Total: 221 / 37067 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: Justice League / 194

Nearby Restaurant: It was time for another regional chain, Ribeyes Steakhouse. It delivered what the name promised, a fine ribeye steak, and it came with a baked potato and a very nice salad bar in a casual setting. I can see why other towns would want one of these.

Where I Virtually Stayed: Last time I was here, I chose a different hotel to save money. This visit, I ponied up for the Hampton Inn. There were all the great Hampton touches such as coffee and cookies waiting at check-in, my comfortable room had all the modern amenities, and the solid buffet included in the Hampton breakfast. It was a nice place to relax after a long drive.

Only in Henderson (again): Less than 20 minutes up the highway from Henderson is Soul City, a planned community first proposed in 1969 by Floyd McKissick, a civil rights leader and director of the Congress of Racial Equality. Soul City was to be a mixed-use town, with houses, factories, and stores in one convenient location, populated by people of all races. The city never came close to its lofty projections, and its only industrial building, Soultech 1, was purchased by the adjoining Warren County Correctional Institution for expansion.

Next stop: Sunset Drive In Theatre, Shelby NC.