An idea in the making since earlier this year is finally coming to fruition — a drive-in theater in California.
Back in October, Andy Korte and his sisters, Olivia Allee and Emily Lehman, along with their friends Casey Anderson and Shannon Holliday, opened the Old School Drive-in Theater.
The drive-in is about five miles south of town where Route T meets Highway 87, and on that corner sits an old, one-room school house, hence the name.
The old, one-room school house on the property used to be the Norman Community Center, but it was originally a school house to some of the people in the community. Allee and Lehman's grandfather donated the property and it was used as a voting location for a while. But most of those who owned it have passed away and the two sisters have inherited the property. The school house has been sitting unused for the last 15 years, so it's run down. But all the money the family is making at the theater is going to be put back into the school house.
"Down the one side, it has these really tall old windows and from the outside, you can walk up to them they're like perfect height so we're going to fix that all back-up and eventually it will become the concession stand area, and we'll put a bathroom in there because right now we just have port-a-potty out there," Korte said. "It's kind of a cool thing for the community to have that here, especially during COVID-19, because it's like the perfect social distancing thing."
Allee came up with the idea back in the spring. They had telephone poles set up and ordered the movie screen, but due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the group decided to hold off till this fall. Since opening, they have shown movies for three weeks. The first weekend was "Monster House," and then for Halloween weekend, they played "Night of the Living Dead" and the original "Halloween." For Nov. 14, it was fans' choice. A poll was posted on their Facebook page and community members voted on a movie, "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation." For Nov. 28, they will be showing "Home Alone." After that, one more movie will play in December before the drive-in shuts down due to cold weather and then opens back up in late spring.
The theater is mostly family-oriented. They did do an adult date night Halloween weekend, but for the most part, they plan to show movies that are child and family-friendly, sticking in the early 90s and 2000s era, with movies such as "The Sandlot" and "Field of Dreams." As for pricing, it is $20 a car-load to attend, no matter how many people are in the car. There is a concessions stand but as of right now there's just some candy bars and sodas. The theater does allow viewers to bring in coolers and snacks.
"People have a lot of fun with it," Korte said. "They'll back their cars in and raise their trunk or get in the bed of the truck with blankets and they spread out."
The screen is 20-by-25 feet, making it easy for everyone to see. As for "seating," the area is about 100 feet wide and 20 feet deep with eight rows of 10. Tickets are available online for $20 dollars or $25 at the gate. Once you pull up to the gate, you will scan your ticket or purchase one, then those who purchased online are able to park in the large, mowed area that has been reserved for them due to the limited tickets available online. Otherwise, those who purchase tickets at the gate may park in the back or off to the side of the mowed area. Up front, there is an area that will be kept mowed in the summer where people can bring lawn chairs or blankets for viewing.
The family is excited to not only bring the community this fun, family experience but also to give the community back its old school house.
For more information, visit the Old School Drive-in Theater's Facebook page.
The theater is located at 34263 Route T, California, MO 65018.