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Skyvue Drive-In

This article reprinted with permission of the Courier-Times, New Castle's local newspaper
9/2/2013 7:56:00 AM
Some hope to save the Skyvue Drive-in
New Jersey drive-in theater historian considers acquiring the Skyvue
Skyvue Drive-in - New Castle, Indiana
For The Courier-Times

The once busy Skyvue Drive-in Theatre, dark for the past two summers, sits empty south of New Castle, waiting for the right person or group to come along and breathe life into it again.

Two different couples have leased the drive-in from the owners, G.W. Pierce Auto Parts, for the past several years. The drive-in last operated in 2011.

With no future plans to do anything with the property, Gary Pierce said recently the drive-in is still available.

"We're trying to sell it or lease it," Pierce said. "That's what our hopes are. We've had a couple of gentlemen come and look. One of them was really excited about it, but he kind of pulled back. I'd love to be able to work out something with anybody who would be interested in taking care of the property."

There are currently only 357 drive-in theaters operating in the United States, with 20 of those in Indiana, according to the United Drive-in Theatre Owners Association. Many have closed because film distributors are converting their movies from 35mm to a digital format, and some drive-in and indoor theatre owners couldn't afford the expense of $80,000 to more than $100,000 to upgrade their equipment.

Pierce said he believed the Skyvue facilities and equipment still were in fairly good condition.

One person who was interested in the drive-in looked at the facilities, Pierce said. "He looked it all over and he said everything is very doable. He said everything looked like it still works.

"I'd love to rent it," Pierce said. Someone with "vision" might be able to operate the drive-in showing old classic films on the weekends, he said, "if you could get your hands on the old films, because there's plenty of those around, and you could connect with someone who would be willing to make a guy a deal on them.

"I think it's definitely a doable thing and I think the community would support it," Pierce said. "It's just finding somebody who would be willing to get in there and work at it."

One person who is interested in the Skyvue is Don Dzikowski, a Kearny, N.J. resident, who has a nostalgic drive-in theater ad page on Facebook.

"I'm still interested. It's just like everything else, it's the money," said Dzikowski, a lifelong drive-in theater historian who is working on publishing a drive-in theater history. "I was lookiing for a co-investor. I thought I had somebody, but that kind of fell through. I'm just saving my pennies and hoping that I can do it in the spring, if it's still available."

Dzikowski said several ideas had been considered for operating the drive-in, including using food carts instead of a full concession stand. "That would save some of the expense and the permitting process.

"The whole thing with drive-ins these days ... is the digital conversion," Dzikowski said. "I think that even going into next year, we have a good year to be able to get 35mm films, if not first-run. We'll get them on a second-run basis.

"My idea was to bring retro films in and create more of an experience ... and some of the things that drive-ins used to do, like a carnival atmosphere, magic shows, circuses and live bands," Dzikowski said. "It would be a place for local bands to get exposure playing before the movie."

Some of the drive-ins today are doing well, Dzikowski said, "just because they are so unique."

While there is nothing definite about Dzikowski opening the Skyvue, he said he is interested in it. "I'm always looking for partners ... and I'm looking at different drive-ins. But the New Castle one is a much better location and I think it would be much more successful."

Paul Goodson, a Hagerstown resident and movie enthusiast, is among a local group hoping to save theSkyvue. The group, which still has a "Friends of Skyvue" page on Facebook, has even tried unsuccessfully to raise money to keep the drive-in open.

Goodson, 42, grew up going to the Skyue. And he still recalls one his most memorable moments was the first time he took his nephew to the drive-in. "He was sitting there on a blanket looking up at the screen and saying 'big TV.'" The group still is hoping the Skyvue can be reopened to keep the drive-in experience alive for future families.

"If Don doesn't buy it, we're hoping to find someone else that would," Goodson said. "We're still trying to encourage the community to get behind a non-profit effort, but that doesn't seem to be selling very well."

Goodson cited a drive-in theater in Virginia that became the country's first non-profit, community operated drive-in. It operates completely with volunteers Thursday through Sunday.

But Goodson said the group is committed to an effort to try to see the Skyvue reopen.

"We're trying to get as many people as possible to join the (Facebook) group," he said, which now has more than 770 members. "I've estimated that at this point, for as little as $25 a person you could get (the drive-in) open."

Goodson noted that both the Skyvue Drive-In and the Castle Theatre need help to continue. The operators of the Castle are uncertain about the prospect of finding funding for the digital movie conversion to keep the historic theater open.

"At some point, if something's not done, there will be no movie venue in Henry County at all," Goodson said. "I just think that people haven't woke up to that fact yet."