Historic Drive-In Movie Theater Previously Deemed Nonessential to Open Friday

McHenry Outdoor Theater

A drive-in movie theater in McHenry, Illinois, received the go-ahead Sunday to open for business after it was labeled nonessential during the coronavirus pandemic.

Sunday, the McHenry Outdoor Theater owner, Scott Dehn, said they would begin the season Friday and Saturday night thanks to their many supporters, according to a Facebook post.

The post read:

You came together as a single voice in an effort to help us open. Your efforts are a true testament as to what can be accomplished when people work together towards a common goal. Imagine if we all did that across all areas of our lives. You are all amazing. When things got tough, I found myself browsing through your comments on my Facebook posts. You never lost hope and your supportive comments gave me the inspiration to keep on trying. Thank you.

Although he satisfied all the state’s guidelines, Dehn said officials told him at the last minute he could not open the theater on May 1 because it was a nonessential business.

“I remain hopeful that something good will come of this. I noticed that there was even a petition making the rounds on social media with over 7,800 signatures! I mean, WOW… That is amazing,” he wrote on Facebook.

Thankfully, the issues with the state were later resolved, according to WGN-TV.

Sunday, the owner announced the theater would most likely show The Flintstones and Jurassic Park during opening weekend, adding that customers could expect to enjoy “cool and interesting surprises” upon arrival.

“I am asking that you please bare [sic] with us in the beginning as my employees and I attempt to operate within the guidelines submitted to us by the DCEO,” he explained.

“In the 70+ years that this theater has stood, it has never had to function during times like these. I can promise that we will all do our best and I will be closely monitoring everything from Box Office to the Concession Carts in an effort to finds [sic] ways to improve,” Dehn continued.

Wednesday on Facebook, the owner shared updated guidelines for customers to follow once the theater reopened and encouraged patrons to arrive early to get a parking spot.

“You must stay within the confines of your vehicle as much as possible. You may lay in the bed of your truck or in the back of a van. You may NOT sit outside of your vehicle,” the post read, adding that those sitting in the bed of a truck or with their vehicle’s hatch open must wear a mask.

Since the 1940s, the nostalgic outdoor theater has offered family-friendly entertainment in a fun and clean environment, according to its about page.

“Put the kids in their pajamas, get in the car, and come out to see two movies for less than the price of one. Nothing is more American than spending a summer night under the stars watching a big Hollywood movie,” its website read.


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