Flint, Michigan: The U.S 23 Drive-In Movie Theater Gets a New Look With New Outdoor Movies
One of the sure fire signs of spring and warmer weather in Mid-Michigan is a trip to the local drive-in movie theater. While many outdoor cinemas have closed over the years, they're not all dead. The fortunes are turning around for outdoor movie enthusiasts and the U.S. 23 Drive in on Fenton road in Mundy Township. Since their heyday in the 50s and 60s, many drive-in theaters have succumbed to a combination of economic hard times and skyrocketing land values, putting pressure on local owners to sell.
One local drive-in, however, is about to get an extreme makeover and a fresh start. Drive-in theaters were once as common as dandelions this time of year, but over time they've dwindled to just six in the entire state of Michigan. A Detroit-area investment group has a five-year lease on the U.S. 23 Drive-In from the original owner's family, which has run outdoor films at the Fenton Road location since 1951.
"What's nice about the drive-in is people like to be outdoors in the summer," General Manager Ken Stocker said. Patrons can see first-run movies under the stars as soon as they're released. Peek inside the concession area and you can almost taste and smell the popcorn, hot dogs and other foods soon to be offered at the open air cinema.
Repairs and reconditioning to the vintage projectors are almost complete. The two huge outdoor movie screens are getting a fresh coat of paint just in time for the start of the season and the original road sign, which hasn't worked fully since the 1970s, is being restored to its full brilliance. Antiquated speakers are no longer needed, since the movie's audio can now be received on your vehicle's radio.
"It's a good, cheap family entertainment. You get two movies for the price of one," Stocker said. "Our concession prices are a lot less expensive than going to the movie theater, for example."
Local residents couldn't be happier. "I think it's great. Being that there's so many other drive-ins that are closing right now in these times. I think that there should be a couple of them open," Shelley Masters said. "Anytime that we can preserve one of our original landmarks, I think it's a great idea because, Flint, again, was one of the greatest towns in the country for a long, long time," said Dave Donahue from nearby PD's Pub.
The grand opening is scheduled for Friday, May 8, with the name of the movies still to be announced. Tickets will run $7.00 for adults and $5.00 for students and children. U.S. 23 Drive-In Official Website
Source: "U.S. 23 Drive-In ready with a new look, new movies" By Kevin Goff -ABC 12 News, WJRT-TV/DT.
My entire “Thrush” family were in the Drive-In business! I LOVED It! We built and owned them beginning in Ohio, Pa., Ky., N.J., Md., Del., Va., N.C., S.C., Ga., Fla., Ala., Miss., Tenn., Ark., La., and I’m sure I missed a few states. My eldest Uncle William (Will) Thrush sold all of his, when Televisions became the rage, moved to Hollywood and produced movies and retired to Las Vegas. The rest of the Thrush brothers (Bobby & Paul) went into the electronics (Radio/TV) industry. I grew up an electronics “GEEK” and still enjoy the old tube type stuff. But I’ve really come to love the unusual & secretive Digital Communications Industry! These new guys think they know it all, but are far from (being in the know)!
I’m seriously considering building a drive-in since I still own all the equipment and movies!
Robert W. Thrush Jr.
Pinehurst, N.C. 28374