Burton, Michigan: Outdoor Movies Fade Away as Yet Another Drive-In Closes

Photo Credit: The Flint Journal. Throngs of people have enjoyed the drive-in movie experience: Parents who brought their young children who fell asleep halfway through the second outdoor movie. Young lovebirds smooching in the back seat. Teenagers goofing off outside the car. Now all these memories may be just that -- memories. Drive-in movie theaters in Genesee County may soon be a thing of the past. The owners of the Miracle Twin Drive-in in Burton said Tuesday it will not reopen. The announcement by National Amusements comes on the heels of U.S. 23 Twin Drive-In Theatre in Mundy Township being put up for sale. "We wish to thank our loyal patrons who have shared great movies and memories with us over the years, and hope to see them at our other area theaters," a National Amusements statement said. Spokeswoman Wanda Whitson did not give a reason why it was closing, but drive-ins nationwide have been dwindling for a long time. Only about 10 remain in Michigan. "When I was younger, it was fun to go watch two movies," said Randy McCallister, 40, of Burton. "We used to take Hamady (Bros.) grocery bags and fill them with buttery popcorn. We took out the lawn chairs and sat and watched the movie." The Miracle Drive-in is literally in McCallister's backyard, and he was shocked to hear that the 2008 season was its last. "Last summer, there were people lining up," he said. "It was so busy." Tina Pilarski, 37, of Burton took her teenage children to the drive-in for the first time last summer to see "Iron Man." "It rained the whole time, the weather was awful," she said. "But (the kids) really liked it. They thought it was cool." Kipp Sherer, co-founder of drive-ins.com, said it is the nostalgia of a drive-in movie that attracts people. They bring their own snacks, lounge in lawn chairs (sometimes even sleeping bags) and take the whole family to the show. "It's just something you don't find as much anymore," he said. "It's a really good family draw. You can bring your kids and don't have to worry about them sitting still." Not everyone is sad to see it go. Bonnie Rogers, who has lived in the modular home park behind the theater for 12 years, could barely contain her excitement. "(The management) didn't know how to control the people," she said. "There was a lot of riffraff. Some people didn't even watch the movie, they just played their radio loud." The theater opened in 1972. In 1975, the theater's previous owners got into some trouble by showing "Bambi" and "The Happy Hooker" at the same time. The Burton City Council was not amused, sending the owners a letter protesting the combination, according to Journal files. These days the theater is showing its age. Weeds are strewn throughout the property and the sign that overlooks I-69 is weathered and worn. The Miracle Twin is one of a slew of outdoor and indoor movie theaters to close recently. Courtland Cinemas in Burton closed in January, Fenton Cinemas closed in December and Showcase Cinemas East in Burton and Cinema 10 in Flint Township closed in 2007. A for sale sign also went up at U.S. 23 Twin on Sunday after nearly 60 years in business. The theater is expected to be open this summer, but it's unclear what will happen after that. The owner died last month, and the remaining family members live out of state most of the year, so they plan to sell the 35-acre property. It is also unclear what will happen to the Miracle Drive-in property, said Burton Councilwoman Laurie Tinnin. She said she would like to advertise the area for commercial use. Tinnin, who grew up in Flint's west side, said she has many fond memories of the Miracle Twin. "As a child I went there with my family all the time," she said. "It was a way for our family to take us and not hire a baby sitter. We used to be able to wear pajamas and have a great time. It was a wonderful place for families." Source: "Miracle Twin closure could mean end of area drive-in movie theaters" by David Smith -The Flint Journal. Read full article at: http://www.mlive.com/business/mid-michigan/index.ssf/2009/03/miracle_twin_closure_could_mea.html.

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