Looking to share a bit of American nostalgia with your family this summer? Check out the drive-in movie nearby in McHenry County. The McHenry Outdoor theatre has been in operation since 1940 and shows first-run movies every night of the weekend.
The drive-in has 600 available spaces. But the best spots are in the front row — for mini-vans only. Movies start at 9:20 p.m., but patrons should arrive no later than 7:30 p.m. That leaves lots of time for tossing the Frisbee, walking the dog (leashed pets only) or exploring the concession stand. Be sure to bring your bug spray and warm clothes for after sunset. Snacks are available for purchase or can be brought from home. We like to set up our lawn chairs on the grass and fill the back of our van with pillows and blankets for anyone who falls asleep early (usually me.) The theatre plays two shows nightly.
By the way, this may be your last chance to visit the Outdoor Theater. Drive-in movie theaters are quickly disappearing with the advent of new digital technology. According to Scott Dehn, president of Golden Age Cinemas, which operates the McHenry Outdoor Theatre, “The price tag to install and convert to digital is $130,000. In the 1950s, there were approximately 4,000 drive-ins in the U.S. Today, there are less than 400. With this need to go to digital projectors, next season there will be even fewer. This is a critical time for drive-in theaters.” Hollywood has vowed not to distribute movies in non-digital format after the end of 2013.
That being said, the McHenry Outdoor Theatre is in the midst of a large-scale effort to raise the much-needed funds to convert to the new digital format. For more information on the Drive to Stay Alive, visit their Indiegogo page. As Dehn says, “This theater has been around for 80 years and it’s been through depressions, recessions, wars, weather. It would be a shame that just a change in technology would be what would force it to close.”
To stay up to date on movies as well as the fundraising efforts follow McHenry Outdoor Theater on Facebook.