It was in the 1960’s that on each Easter morning we would load the four kids in the car, all in their pajamas and head for the sunrise church service at the drive-in theater. It was located out on the Arenzville road, only 100 yards or so from the Oscar Meyer hog plant. We were early and when Pastor Lang, wearing his black robe, would climb up on the roof of the concession stand to start the service there were lots of questions from the wide-awake kids. “Will we see a movie?” “Will we be able to hear him?” The little one wanted to know if he was going to fly off the roof, and another asked, “Will we all sing in our cars?”
That drive-in theater hung on for quite a while and finally dropped out of business just like many more did across the country. At its peak in 1958 there were 4,063 drive-ins nationwide, according to the United Drive-In Theatre Owners Association. There is still one drive-in operating in the Chicago area which is among less than a dozen still operational in Illinois and not more than 300 nationwide.
Scott Dehn, 42, the owner of the drive-in in McHenry, Illinois said it would have been difficult to afford the $150,000 cost for digital equipment. Luckily the McHenry theater was among the top five vote-getters among the county to receive donated equipment from Honda’s Project Drive-In. The theater’s seven-stories-tall screen tower, originally built in the 1940s, was updated to allow digital movies to be shown. It is a seasonal business and the McHenry Drive-In still draws big crowds for blockbuster releases. Last April’s “Avengers: Infinity War” release was sold out the entire weekend. “We can usually pack in 900 cars on a Saturday,” Dehn said.