Quasar going strong after two years

Quasar Drive-In sign with lighted letter board at twilight
photo from the Quasar Drive-In Facebook page

Embarrassing! After I wrote about the efforts of Jeff and Jenny Karls in building a drive-in in Valley NE, northwest of Omaha, I completely missed the fact that the Quasar Drive-In opened in May 2021. And it took me almost as long to discover that they were featured in a documentary released this year, “Back to the Drive-In”. That movie is a sequel to the 2013 drive-in documentary, “Going Attractions”.

And I really love the Quasar’s old-school style. The Karls salvaged the screen and other equipment from the sad closing of the I-70 Drive-In in Kansas City MO. They spent most of 2020 building, I’m tempted to say, a “real” drive-in with concentric circles of ramps. It looks like the Quasar opened in May 2021, and every indication suggests that it’s doing fine. Just this past Sunday, it held a swap and shop event.

Anyway, that’s about all I’ve got for now. I’m really sorry that I didn’t notice the Quasar’s opening last year. I’ve added it to the Carload active drive-in list.

Drive-in list adds two more

ChiTown Drive-In at night, with movie on screen and rows of cars in a flat parking lot
photo from the ChiTown Movies web page

Edgecase drive-ins, those without ramps and screen towers, are always a little difficult for me to judge. That goes double for pandemic-inspired drive-ins, many of which had short runs and are all but forgotten. Those are the excuses I’m using for not adding two of them to the Carload active drive-in list until this week.

The first is ChiTown Movies, which is in Chicago as you’d expect. It’s connected to the ChiTown Futbol facility in the city’s Pilsen neighborhood, and it opened on June 9, 2020. Food is available through the onsite restaurant, the ChiTown Grille. Although its parking lot holds just 106 cars, it’s been going strong for three seasons now. It has a dedicated projection booth and freestanding screen, so there’s no reason to keep it off the Carload list.

Although there were drive-ins all over the suburbs, those within the Chicago city limits were historically rare. The ChiTown might be only the second, after the Double Drive-In (1950-1995) on Columbus Avenue. Also, the ChiTown is less than a mile north of where old US 66 passed out of (or into) Chicago; you can pencil that note into your copy of Drive-Ins of Route 66.

The second new entry is a sketchier drive-in in an even rarer location. The Drive-In at Union Market is in Washington DC, and I believe it’s the first that ever opened within the District of Columbia itself. On one hand, it’s been operating for 10 years. On the other, it has no dedicated screen, using the side of the Union Market instead. In Google Street View, I don’t see a permanent projection booth. The monthly movie series is open to pedestrians, but the drive-in sells tickets for parking spots in the viewing field. Like I said, this is an edge case, but 10 years of drive-in movies in the same location counts for a lot.

If you know of other drive-ins that I need to add to the Carload active list, please drop me a line. I’ll keep looking for more.

AL’s Cinemagic to close

2013 photo © Brad Smith, from the Carload Flickr pool

Although a few drive-ins open every year, another few close when their retiring owners can’t find anyone willing to take over. It sounds like that’s what happened in Athens AL, where the Cinemagic Drive-In will close at the end of July because its owner, Ralph Freehauf, is selling the place to someone who plans to develop the site into a church.

According to WAFF, Huntsville’s News Leader, the Cinemagic opened in 1997 and added an adjacent indoor theater in 2006. (I praised that combination when I made just my 11th stop on my Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey in 2017.) Freehauf told WAFF that he had hoped to sell it to someone who would keep the Cinemagic as a theater, and there was a note that the new owners will keep two of the projectors for possible future movie nights.

“We did our best over the 25 years that we’ve had the drive-in, and 15 years that we’ve had the indoor to give them a pleasurable experience watching a movie,” Freehauf said.

If you head over to that WAFF link, you can watch some video (which I couldn’t embed here, darn it) of the Cinemagic’s final month. I appreciate that Freehauf gave his patrons notice so they can enjoy one last trip for a show under that stars.