Thursday, May 30, 2013

Idaho Falls drive-in theaters open for summer; owners seek buyer

Right now the Sky-Vu and Motor-Vu drive-in theaters in Idaho Falls are only open on weekends, but that will change to a full-week schedule in a few weeks with the advent of summer.
Idaho Falls' two drive-in movie theaters, the Motor-Vu and the Sky-Vu, are still for sale, but if you think you're going to buy them for a peanuts you've got another thing coming.

The price for both is $2.4 million or $1.2 million apiece, said Marcia Leonard, who owns the properties with her mother, Dr. Elizabeth Page Dewsnup. "They make a lot of money," she said. "The people here love them."
It costs adults $7 for a double feature at the Sky-Vu.

The Sky-Vu sits on 9.1 acres on the south side of town, on land near the Snake River that could be very valuable for development. Anyone who wants to buy the property by itself has to promise not to operate the drive-in, because they don't want competing theaters, Leonard said.

The Motor-Vu is on 6.0 acres on the north side of Idaho Falls, with good canal frontage and water rights.

One can be forgiven for wondering how Idaho Falls, Pop. 57,000, hangs onto two "ozoners" while they are disappearing right and left all over America. In 1958, the United States had close to 4,000 drive-in movie theaters, said Jennifer Sherer Janisch, who operates the Web site www.drive-ins.com. Today, that number is less than 400.

Two things brought about their demise in the ’70s and ’80s -- rising land values and the advent of VCRs, DVDs and the Internet. That trend slowed down in the ’90s, and although she recognizes drive-ins will never be the mass market phenomenon they were in the Eisenhower era, Sherer said she’s hopeful about the future.

“In the last several years we've seen drive-in expansion, drive-in re-openings, and even brand new drive-ins,” she said. “Aside from the unique atmosphere and the fact that it's so affordable, people want good, clean fun, and drive-ins have it."

Leonard said people's love of the outdoors and family activity have made the local drive-ins successful. Although only open on the weekends at the moment, the Sky-Vu has a first-run double feature, "Star Trek: Into Darkness" and "Fast and Furious 6." The Motor-Vu's fare is a little older -- "Iron Man 3" and "Oz The Great and Powerful" -- but still fresh enough that some people may have not seen them.

Even if they have, "For $7, it's a good value," Leonard said.