MANISTIQUE, Mich. (WJMN) — There are over 300 drive-in theaters left in the United States. At one point in time, there were 10 drive-ins in the Upper Peninsula. Now, there is only one left.
“This isn’t just Manistique’s drive-in theater, it is the Upper Peninsula’s Drive-In Theater,” said Eric Sherbinow, Vice-President, U.P. Film Union
The US Highway 2 Community Drive-In Theater in Manistique was built in 1953 and operated until 2001.
“I remember coming out here as a kid and experiencing what the drive-in had to offer,” said Don Erickson, President, U.P. Film Union.
Then the drive-in shut down.
The property almost sold to be turned into a log storage yard, which would’ve been the end of drive-in movies in the Upper Peninsula.
“I didn’t appreciate this as much as I do now,” said Erickson.
But 5 years ago, Don, Eric & the U.P. Film Union had the idea of showing a community film at the vacant drive-in. They weren’t sure what to expect, but the turn out blew the union off the screen.
“This waking back up was the greatest movie that I’ve seen on here. The place was packed. There was hundreds of cars, a thousand or more people, and it was free and from there, it kind of just snowballed,” said Sherbinow.
“If I could explain what it feels like to come out here in one word, it’s happiness. From the beginning till the end, people enjoy every moment that they are here and we’ve had people that have moved vacations around I was told to come to one of our events last summer,” said Erickson.
Every season, the drive-in plays host to 4-5 events, sometimes with multiple screenings.
They limit the number of events to ensure larger turnouts.
“There’s a real reason why drive-in’s started dying all over the country because people were doing something else,” said Sherbinow.
“So if we make this truly an event, something to look forward to and plan for, it works out being a good deal for the concession operator and that’s ultimately who we want to help. We want the community to have a great time out here, we want a big turnout, we want lots of people coming from all over the U.P.”
Local non-profit organizations partner with the film union to put on the limited events.
The film union provides the space, while the local organizations pay for the rights to show the film and also run the concession stand, which all of the money they earn goes back into their non-profit.
While the U.P. Film Union tries to keep a family atmosphere, they know their customers very well.
They try to keep the movie ratings below PG-13, but when Halloween rolls around, their Fright Night is quite spooky.
“We show a scary movie for the kids and then we give them enough time to leave, so all of the grown ups can come in and see a real horror movie. That’s the only time we step into the realm of maybe a R rated movie,” said Sherbinow.
Being the lone survivor, the US Highway 2 Community Drive-In hopes to last for years to come.
Organizers believe to keep this local landmark a float and all they need is support from an audience.
“I’ve kind of stopped watching the films because I’ve seen them all before, but I watch the people. I know what’s happening on that screen, but watching the people and seeing that their having a good time, that’s where the entertainment is, for those nights for me,” said Sherbinow.