Video: WV’s Sunset Ellis to reopen in 2023

After its original owners closed the adjoining restaurant, it looked like the Sunset Drive-In in Shinnston WV was going to stay dark. The outlook was bad enough that I had pulled the Sunset (or is it the Sunset Ellis?) off the Carload active drive-in list. But it goes back to one of my favorite rules: How can you tell when a drive-in has permanently closed? It’s not when it ends its season; it’s when it fails to open the following spring.

Here’s a great example of that rule in action. Rocky Morgan has stepped in to buy the historic Sunset Ellis Restaurant and its drive-in. The restaurant reopens on Feb. 16, and Morgan said he’ll reopen the Sunset Drive-In this summer. This great news came this week from WDTV, Weston WV’s News Leader, which provided a nice video that I can’t embed here.

In place of that video, I’ve added another video from last summer when the Sunset looked like it would close for good. That video came from WBOY, Clarksburg WV’s News Leader. So maybe you could watch that one first, as the “before” story, then click over to WDTV for the “after”. That way, you’ll be sure to catch the happy ending.

WV’s Sunset struggles to reopen

Continuing problems at the Sunset Drive-In in Shinnston WV have left owner John Ellis wondering whether he’ll be able to show movies again this season. That’s according to a series of reports by WBOY, Clarksburg’s News Leader.

It all started in February this year. After a solid 2021 season, the Sunset was hit by vandals, who trashed the projection room, stole computers, and cut wires. Ellis worked to repair his digital projector and was able to reopen for a weekend earlier this month. Then the projector stopped working, and now he’s looking for parts and a repair technician if he can find them.

In between, the venerable, adjacent Sunset Ellis Restaurant, owned by Anthony Ellis, closed its doors Sunday. The owner cited problems finding the ingredients he needed for his specialties, and in finding workers for the kitchen. Members of Ellis family have owned the complex since 1955, and opening the restaurant five years later.

For now, I’m marking the Sunset as closed, dropping it from the Carload active drive-in theater list. Here’s hoping I get to put it back soon.

WV’s Warner’s Almost As Good As New

Warner’s Drive-In, which was rescued from oblivion by a local non-profit group in 2016, announced on its Facebook page last week that it was installing a new roof. It was another small step but a strong indication that the Historic Warner’s Drive-In & Cultural Resources Center is making sure that this Franklin WV institution will continue showing movies for years to come.

That story was nicely summarized in an article in The Inter-Mountain earlier this month. The cinderblock drive-in, built in 1952, was threatened by the need to convert to a digital projector. It stayed dark in 2015, but was saved by the creation of a community group to buy the property and renovate its old buildings.

“Getting good roofs, especially over the projection room, is a priority to protect our big investment,” said group coordinator Bob Davis. “Our screen is a building, very distinctive — but, has a roof that also needs replacement. So both buildings have leaks that we have to take care of right now. Our five-year plan has had to be put on hold while we handle the necessities.”

Since it’s that time of year, we’ll soon return to news of drive-ins that failed to answer the bell to open for Spring 2019. I thought we all needed a break, and this is a great way to celebrate a historic drive-in that was saved. There’s a lot more in that Inter-Mountain article, so you should go read it!