Rural Missouri - August 2018 - 21
Right: The projector at the 19 Drive-In of Cuba, Missouri displays
a nighttime show. The theater upgraded to digital projection in
2013. Below: Scenes from Missouri drive-ins include, from left,
a young drive-in patron watching the preparation of popcorn,
movie-goers anticipating the start of the evening's feature
presentation, a cluster of vintage tickets from the 19 Drive-In and
a grill ﬁred up to cook a pre-movie meal.
At the Cuba theater, customers can choose whether
they want to listen through a radio or the traditional
drive-in speaker that can be hooked onto the window
of a vehicle. Similar to the Sunset Drive-In, the Cuba
theater eventually transitioned to digital equipment in 2013.
Karen Spreng, 21, remembers a childhood ﬁlled with selling tickets, hanof the Sunset Drive-In and its technology during his dling concessions and stafﬁng the cash register. Her father, Donald Spreng,
owned and operated the drive-in from 1964 until his death in July 2011.
decades spent there.
"Dad wanted to sell it long ago but I talked him into keeping it," Karen says.
"When I went to work there, it was two projectors and you changed reels
"And somehow I've convinced Mom to keep it."
every 20 minutes - and that was in '65, until 1980," Larry says.
The oldest of three children, Karen takes on multiple responsibilities at the
The Sunset Drive-In has been a digital operation for four years. Larry says
they receive the movie on a hard drive along with a key to unlock and down- theater. Checking the speakers, running the website and uploading the ﬁlms
load the ﬁlm. A playlist is created to sync different parts of the movie-going to the digital system all fall into her day-to-day duties. Double features end as
late as 2 a.m., and Karen is often the one there to close up shop.
experience, such as when to turn the lights on and off.
Karen's sister, Carol, 20, handles most of the concessions, and Karen takes
Cash is essential to have on hand at the drive-in because credit cards are
not accepted. A double feature presentation costs $8 and is free for children over sometime during the second movie. All of the menu items are cooked to
under 5 years old. The theater offers a number of concessions too, ranging order so patience is key. A classic burger and fries are big sellers, and homemade milkshakes also are available for satisfying a sweet tooth during a show.
from a $1.75 hot dog to a pizza hand-delivered to your car.
A night at the Sunset often means more than viewing a movie. It's not Concessions are an important source of funds for the 19 Drive-In. "You don't
unusual to spot someone grilling up a pre-movie meal or unpacking goodies make money showing movies," Karen's mother, Susan, says.
A weekend double feature costs $8 for adults and $6 for children between
from coolers. There's also a playground in front of the sprawling screen where
6 and 11 years old, cash only. On weekdays, the price becomes a steady $6
kids can pass time before the feature presentation.
Attendance at the drive-in depends on the featured ﬁlms, and favorable for all ﬁlm attendees. The only exception to the double feature rule would be a
weather conditions help too. At capacity, Larry says they can accommodate lengthy movie, such as the longest "Pirates of the Caribbean" ﬁlm, Karen says.
Karen is a full-time student at Missouri S&T studying business and psy323 cars if customers park properly.
Larry owes some of his business' success
chology, but still dedicates time to caring for the theater. She wants to preserve
to its location in Aurora. Branson and Springthe drive-in for the enjoyment of others. "I get to see people of all ages experience something that's getting rare - and I love to hear people laugh and have
ﬁeld are nearby and offer frequent movie fans
who bring their business to the old drive-in.
a good time," Karen says. "At least I can do that for them."
"It's something that families want to have,"
Dillon and Sonia Parry, Crawford Electric Cooperative members, attended
Larry says. "Hopefully they don't get tired of it."
a double feature of "Incredibles 2" and "Ocean's 8" at the 19 Drive-In with
their children. The Cuba drive-in is a 40-minute trip from their home in
Travel more than 150 miles northeast and you'll
ﬁnd the 19 Drive-In of Cuba, Missouri, another
Berryman. While both Dillon and Sonia recall catching movies at the
escape from the typical indoor theater. The drive-in
drive-in growing up, Sonia speciﬁcally remembers her nights at the 19
is open seven days a week until at least the end of
"We didn't realize it was still open - and that they were open all
September and shows current ﬁlms.
long!" Sonia says.
Aspects of the drive-in still appeal to the Parry's all these years
later, with a family of their own. Sonia appreciates the affordable
prices and the ability to enjoy two ﬁlms for the price of a single
"This is nostalgia at its best," Dillon says.
When the credits roll, so do the ﬁrst cars as they ﬁle toward the drive-in
exit. Blankets are folded and chairs are packed. The screen goes dark and
the remaining vehicles head for the highway, having made memories for the
future at this nostalgic ode to the country's cinematic past.
6. Phoenix Drive-In
1. Starlite Drive-In, Cadet
Below: The Sunset Drive-In delivers pizzas directly to vehicles waiting for the movie to begin.
The dinosaur costume promoted the recent release of "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom."
2. 19 Drive-In, Cuba
7. 66 Drive-In, Carth
3. 21 Drive-In,Van Buren
8. B&B Five & Drive
4. Sunset Drive-In, Aurora
9. B&B I-70 Drive-In
, Kansas City
5. Barco Drive-In, Lamar
10. B&B Twin Drive-In
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - August 2018
Rural Missouri - August 2018 - Intro
Rural Missouri - August 2018 - Cover1
Rural Missouri - August 2018 - Cover2
Rural Missouri - August 2018 - Contents
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Rural Missouri - August 2018 - Cover3
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