Mt. Zion Drive-in Movie is among America’s 500 remaining drive-in theaters. With a renovated tavern as a snack bar, the first films flickered on the big screen on this hilltop in the early 1950’s. The windows are from a church in Parkersburg, West Virginia, and the beam that runs down the center of the snack bar is one continuous piece of wood – brought down the road tied along the side of a pick up truck.
In the early years of the drive-in, families arrived in their cars and trucks from several counties, sometimes having to wait for the second show. On occasion, there were so many cars they blocked Route 16, and the owner directed traffic with his flashlight.
In those days, the movie was not the most important part of going to the drive-in. Drive-ins got main stream features many months after their releases to indoor theaters. In the early days, the shows included “B” movies, even “C” movies, some of the worst ever shown.
The movies were a social event as were the concerts. And although the movies may not have been good, the entertainment was. Famous musicians such as Dolly Parton and Scruggs and Flatts have performed here.
The drive-in was brought to the rural community by John and Helen Cook who ran the drive-in for about ten years. When filmmakers changed movie formats to Cinascope, (better known as “Wide screen”), the screen had to be widened. You can see the changes that were made on the original brick screen where the “wings” were added in later years.
The current owners, the Bevers, have operated the drive-in the past twenty years and Mt. Zion Drive-in now shows first release movies. In 1998 they installed radio sound for the movies, with visitors tuning in on FM 91.5. Don’t worry – they still have and use the nostalgic speakers as well.
The snack bar opens at 7 p.m. with a menu including pizza, burgers, mozzarella sticks, hot dogs and – popcorn. Movies start at dusk, and the snack bar remains open through the second show.
Not in the mood for a movie? How about some late-night food? Enter the snack bar from the road side if you’d like to eat and just enjoy the juke box or a game of pool. But while you’re there, you should enjoy the show, under the stars, amidst the fresh air. There are only 500 places left where you can enjoy this show, and Calhoun County is proud home of this one.
Tickets are only $5 per adult; children under 10 are free (with adult). (Please refrain from bringing outside food – the movie prices are low because the food generates the income.)
For movie listings, the snack bar menu, history and the most up to date admission prices, visit Mt. Zion Drive-in online at http://www.geocities.com/mtziondrivein/.