Great news! After sitting idle for 30 years, the Moonlite Drive-In in West Wyoming PA has reopened. Even better is that we have video of the event courtesy of WNEP, Scranton’s News Leader.
Owner Eric Symeon bought the place in early 2017 and spent two years working to clear out the effects of decades of neglect. He told the nearby Times Leader, “There was only two of us working on it, clearing the land, doing all new sewers, electric.” WNEP added the detail that over 200 trees were removed to make room for the restored parking ramps.
If you want to read more about the process, Carload ran stories on Symeon’s work as he applied to reopen the Moonlite and when he bought the drive-in’s digital projector from the freshly closed Cascade Drive-In of West Chicago IL earlier this year. Then sit back, watch the video, and rejoice that another drive-in has rejoined the land of the living.
Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of local TV news segments about nearby drive-in theaters. This week, KING-TV, Seattle’s News Leader, posted an affectionate look at Bremerton WA’s Rodeo Drive-In Theatre that has to be in my Top Ten.
As I wrote two years ago during my Drive-In-A-Day Odyssey, “Rodeo Motor Movies” opened in 1949 as a single-screen drive-in for about 600 cars. The Seattle-based Cascade/Seven Gables Cinemas bought the Rodeo in 1977 and added two more screens the following year, expanding the capacity total to about 1000 cars.
Jack and Cindy Ondracek bought the rundown Rodeo in 1986 after it had been for sale for several years, and they still own it today. “It was a big leap of faith at the time but it worked out real well,” said Jack, who is now the projectionist. Cindy runs the box office, and oldest daughter Cheryl manages the snack bar.
KING’s video, which I can’t recommend highly enough, shows plenty of patrons relaxing and getting happy waiting for the movie to start. Its story ends with a perfect quote from Cindy: “People up here value the fact that the evening is sometimes the most amazing part of the entire day. Out here we kind of embrace that, and we give you a great way to finish the day off.”
There are photos and more details in KING’s post online. For a good time, you really should go read it!
WMTV, Madison WI’s News Leader, reported some sad news last night. The Starlite 14 Drive In in Richland Center may showing movies for just a couple more weeks, according to an announcement by its owners, Lisa and Bill Muth.
In a post on the drive-in’s Facebook page, Bill Muth wrote, “We have decided to retire from the theater business. … The Starlite 14 Drive-In will close permanently after the completion of the 2019 season on September 1, 2019.” He added that he would soon attempt to sell the Starlite and his indoor Center Cinema.
Muth’s description of the situation in the WMTV video sounded just a bit more positive. “If nobody buys the theater, and they don’t buy it and reopen it next year, it will be permanently closed, and it will be gone.”
Personally, I see a lot of room for optimism. The Starlite 14 has digital projection (already paid off, Muth wrote), and it’s still mostly surrounded by farm land. While it’s true that it won’t reopen if no one ever buys it, the site doesn’t look attractive for warehouses or apartments, so I’d say its best use is still as a drive-in theater. Here’s hoping some buyer agrees with me some time this off-season.