That drive-in opened in 1945, and its electricity provider used to be the Greenwood County Electric Power Commission. In 1966, South Carolina lawmakers allowed Duke Power to buy that provider, but with the condition that its then-existing customers would have their electric rates locked in forever.
Fast-forward to 2009. When Tommy and Carolyn McCutcheon purchased and reopened the 25, it still enjoyed that same old wonderfully low rate on its electric bill. In the spring of 2015, some power outages led to Duke Energy (Duke Power’s successor) insisting on a service upgrade that would negate that old price break. The McCutcheons hired an electrician who said that Duke’s neglect of its equipment was responsible for the problems.
It’s a long story with a fair amount of drama, but I’ll jump to the spoiler for you. In 2017, state regulators ruled that Duke had acted improperly and restored the old rate. Duke appealed that decision to the courts, repeatedly, losing every time. (Utility companies, amiright?) Finally last week, the South Carolina Supreme Court reaffirmed all of the lower courts’ rulings, and Duke announced it would stop fighting this particular case.
“I spent a lot of money fighting them,” Tommy McCutcheon said. “More than I’ll ever recoup, probably.” But he told the Index-Journal that he was glad to be able to turn his attention back to running the drive-in. For many more details on this battle with a happy ending, you really should go read it!
The article starts with Joe Barth, the owner of the Highway 21 Drive-In, who bought the place in 2004 when it was run down. “My wife would tell ya I was stupid,” Barth said. He cleaned up the joint, added a second screen and a playground, and now he’s enjoying the simple life of running a successful drive-in.
The “25 Drive-In Auto Theatre” was the next drive-in in the article. Its owners, Tommy and Carolyn McCutcheon, bought the 25 in 2008. Tommy came from the restaurant business, so the concession stand is a special treat, particularly the Barbecue Bacon Burger. “This is my 11th year, and I’m thrilled every time I look up there and see the big screen,” he said. “It still takes my breath away after all these years.”
The last stop of the tour is the Big Mo, set behind rows of peach orchards. Richard and Lisa Boaz bought the drive-in in 1998 for $10,000 after it sat idle for 14 years. They had been at a West Virginia drive-in the year before, and Richard suggested to his wife, “This is so cool; we could do this.”
The article includes plenty of wonderful photos of folks having a great time at each of the three South Carolina drive-ins, and there’s more story and details than I mentioned here, so you know you really ought to go read it!
A new drive-in in South Carolina may be open as soon as March according to its owner. Brent Anderson told the Florence News that he’s at the “end of the permits and engineering process” for the Center Road Drive-In Movie Theater, which will be a few miles west of the Darlington Raceway south of State Highway 34. “Construction won’t take too long once the permits are in, but it takes a lot longer to get access to those than a normal person might think,” Anderson said.
According to the article, the Center Road have a two-sided screen showing first-run movies in double features on both sides. It will be on land (on Center Road, of course) that Anderson’s family has owned for more than 75 years. He plans to start with a Thursday-Sunday schedule in the spring and may expand to seven days a week in the summer.
It’s always nice to see another new drive-in pop up. We can all follow its progress by checking in on the Center Road’s Facebook page.