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Drive-in theater could show the stars once again





RUSSELL -- The dilapidated Sky-Vu Drive-In Theatre sign in Russell is the last remnant of a bygone era, but its legacy has inspired a movement to restore the venue to its heyday.

Nostalgia united approximately 40 people who attended an information meeting Thursday in the Dream Theatre, 629 N. Main. The cinema's team shared their vision for the new drive-in, and they solicited input for other features, concessions and off-time revenue sources.

Steve Wells, the theater's manager, led the meeting and explained a 10-acre property is available next to the original site. The business closed in 1982 after showing films for 32 years.

Although the passage of time has evolved the movie experience to include watching Netflix on iPads, the meeting suggested the community supports reviving the classic drive-in experience.

"It's retouching those fond memories they have of going with their parents and going to the show in their pajamas and throwing out a blanket or a mattress in the back of the pickup in the open air and watching the movie," Wells said.

The undertaking is estimated to cost at least $500,000. The aging sign would be restored, a screen would be purchased and a concessions building would be constructed. Sound would play through FM radio, but attendees urged for the classic speaker boxes to be an option.

The drive-in could play new and classic movies, and it also could broadcast sporting events. Wells said it is likely each person would buy a ticket instead of a flat rate for each vehicle. At least 250 vehicles could park on the property.

Possible concession items were considered. The most popular idea was the flying saucer, which was a popular dish in Russell in the past. It is a panini-style sandwich that can be filled with a variety of ingredients. Hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken tenders, ice cream and cotton candy also were among the suggestions.

Off-time revenue sources were explored. Car shows, flea markets, swap meets, laser tag, concerts and mini-golf were proposed.

Audience members asked the group to create a Facebook page for updates and set up a PayPal account for donations.

Sheryl Krug, an attendee from Russell, said she was impressed by the early plan. She remembered sitting on her porch as a child and seeing the drive-in theatre's screen from a distance in the horizon.

"You're selling more than a movie, you're selling an entire experience," she said.

Aside from the economic benefit of attracting visitors, the drive-would offer moviegoers a moment of escape.

"I think there's just some of that the world has gotten too big and too fast, and let's go sit in our car and turn on the radio and watch a movie," she said.

To learn more, call the Dream Theatre at (785) 445-1949.