Mason City, Iowa: Reminiscing about Outdoor Movie Memories

Years after the Mason City Drive-In Theatre closed, Craig Binnebose still lives that sweet summertime dream. The former Strand Theatre doorman is preserving North Iowa movie history at his Drive-In Theatre Museum in Southbridge Mall. Binnebose, 55, is surrounded by his collection of outdoor theater speakers, film reels, historic Mason City photos and classic posters with quaint taglines: From out of space ... a warning and an ultimatum! (1951's The Day the Earth Stood Still ) The Man who Made a Monster (1931's Frankenstein )It comes to life! (1932's The Mummy )

Also on display in the glassed-in museum (housed in the Cinema V theater complex), a drive-in theater seashell speaker used by Fred Flintstone (John Goodman) in 1994's The Flintstones. I always had an interest in the equipment, said Binnebose, a former sheet metal worker and manufacturing engineer. It was part of the movie experience you didn't get to see. He has fond memories of old movie days in Mason City.

Historic photos at the Drive-In Museum show the premiere of the 3-D Man in the Dark from April 1953 at the Palace Theatre. A 1941 public relations photo for I Wanted Wings shows kids gathered 'round an airplane outside the Cecil Theatre where, Binnebose said, you were likely to see bats aflight in the rafters even as Dracula played. Watching real bats flying around was pretty cool, he said.

The Mason City Drive-In opened in 1949 and closed after showing Twister, Eraser and Executive Decision on Oct. 9, 1996. On that site now is the Lyons Toyota dealership. Bad sound, Binnebose said of the drive-in, but it was an event for families.

I was always trying to sneak in for free. He hopes eventually to show Saturday afternoon movies at the Drive-In Museum and make a documentary film on local drive-ins. He'll try to keep the display interesting for passersby. Richard Johnson


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