Drive-in closes for good

Register Reporter

Register/Richard Luken
A company official confirmed to the Register today that 54 Drive-In in Gas will remain closed for good.

GAS — Allen County’s 54 Drive-In, a part of summer weekends for local movie-goers since 1951, will not reopen.
“We just cannot justify spending the amount of money it would take to fix up what is a seasonal business,” said Dan Van Orton, general circuit manager for B & B Theatres, which owns the drive-in. “That facility needed a lot of work.”
Van Orton noted the old age of the drive-in’s nerve center, a concrete block structure that houses its projection room, concession stand and restrooms as being the reason for giving up on the facility.
While receiving only cosmetic repairs in recent years, the facility had begun to deteriorate, exacerbated by vandalism over the summer, including one instance in which the building was knocked off its foundation by a pickup.
Van Orton said there are no plans to demolish the drive-in. “But we will not reopen,” he said.
Closing 54 Drive-In was not an easy decision, he acknowledged.
“We understand that drive-ins are a very important part of your state’s history,” said Van Orton, who works out of Fulton, Mo. He said that B & B owned 13 such drive-ins when he started working with the company in 1983. “After this year, we’ll have only one remaining. It’s just not practical to reopen.”
The closing of 54 Drive-In means only seven drive-in theaters remain in the state: Boulevard Drive-In, Kansas City; Star Vu, El Dorado; South Drive-In, Dodge City; Pageant Drive-In, Medicine Lodge; Midway Drive-In, Osawatomie; Kanopolis Drive-In, Kanopolis; and Starlite Drive-In, Wichita.