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» Cinematour Forum   » Cinemas in the News   » Milton-Freewater, OR: M-F Drive-In Screen Destroyed

Author Topic: Milton-Freewater, OR: M-F Drive-In Screen Destroyed
The Evil Sam Graham

Posts: 85
From: Des Moines, IA
Registered: Jan 2004

 - posted January 08, 2008 06:23 PM      Profile for The Evil Sam Graham   Author's Homepage   Email The Evil Sam Graham         Edit/Delete Post 
(SIDE NOTE UPDATE: The La Grande Drive-In's screen also suffered some damage, mostly to the skirting, but the owners don't expect it to affect the upcoming season.)

SOURCE: Walla Walla Union-Bulletin

MILTON-FREEWATER — One of the Valley's cultural icons perished in Friday's windstorm.

One of only a few in Oregon — and the last remaining handful in the country — the M-F Drive-In has entertained generations of outdoor-movie enthusiasts since it opened in 1953. Carloads of people have watched everything from Disney flicks to suspense-filled thrillers on the 90-foot-by-65-foot screen on Highway 11.

That screen, the original from 1953, met its end when high winds snapped one of the four main support poles, then sucked the three remaining poles out of their holes.

"We usually have a little wind damage every year," said manager Mike Spiess. "This wind was going the opposite direction than usual."

Built and owned by Mike's parents, Dick and Loretta Spiess, the drive-in has long been featured in articles and in stories passed down in families. From mid-spring to late fall, customers have kept the snack shack busy while waiting for dusk to fall and magic on a tall scale to begin.

Two years ago, the business replaced the bracing in back of the screen, Mike said. "But the four main poles were original."

The screen, which blew backward into the property behind the drive-in, is not salvageable, a fact Mike had to tell his parents over the phone. They are on vacation in Hawaii. "He was fine," Mike said of his 76-year-old father. "He and Mom were fine with it. There's nothing you can do and nobody got hurt."

The family will face a lot of cleanup work, and then some tough decisions about the future. Replacing the screen will be a big challenge, Mike speculated.

"We have insurance, but replacement costs ... people aren't building new drive-ins and it won't be easy to get a bid. I don't know the last time a new screen went up anywhere in the country."

Even if a screen can be had, things could never be pulled together in time for the opening of the season, he said. In addition to the screen, the entrance sign and fence surrounding the lot were damaged. Choosing not to rebuild may be the only option for unleashing Dick from the job he's cherished for 54 years.

Despite the uncertainty, Spiess remained optimistic. The drive-in is a unique part of the area and enjoys community support, he realizes. "We'll see."

[ January 10, 2008, 10:21 PM: Message edited by: The Evil Sam Graham ]

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Ken Layton

Posts: 87
From: Olympia, WA
Registered: Oct 2004

 - posted January 08, 2008 09:38 PM      Profile for Ken Layton   Email Ken Layton         Edit/Delete Post 
Where's he been? New driveins (and closed ones reopening) are happening every year. He can easily have a new screen built by Selby Screens and be open in plenty of time. all he's got to do is call Selby Screens.

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Matt Lutthans

Posts: 51
From: Marysville, WA
Registered: Dec 2003

 - posted April 06, 2008 03:36 PM      Profile for Matt Lutthans   Email Matt Lutthans         Edit/Delete Post 
The screen is still sitting at the Circus D-I in Anacortes. Come and get it!

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