Theater pairs classic cars with film

By Candace Sipos — csipos@nvdaily.com

STEPHENS CITY — Apparently, “American Graffiti” is a tough film to find, at least the 35 mm version.

Jim Kopp, current owner of the Family Drive-In Theatre, said he had to request the movie almost two years ago. After the theater’s 50th anniversary event, many local residents suggested running the film to make for an even stronger night. Five years later, for the 55th anniversary of the theater on Valley Pike that was built in 1956, Kopp’s team is doing just that.

The special showing, coupled with a classic car show and 1950s-style activities, should make for a “special night at the movies,” Kopp said.

“It’s going to be like stepping back in time,” said Fred Cheshire, vice president of the Valley Cruisers Car Club, who is also coordinating the event. “If the weather cooperates, we possibly could sell the drive-in out with classic cars.”

Cheshire said that he expects anywhere from 250 to 400 classic cars to show up at the event. During a similar event five years ago, only 190 cars showed up, but there wasn’t such a popular film playing and it was held on a weekday, he noted. This year, while “American Graffiti” will run Friday through Sunday, the car show will be held Saturday.

Cheshire said there will be several car clubs represented, including many participants from Valley Cruisers. Starting at 2 p.m. on Saturday, people driving classic cars from 1976 or earlier are welcome for the show. Theater officials will give out awards, such as the manager’s award and staff’s choice. Also, Kopp has secured various prizes for winners, such as movie tickets and box sets of candy popular in the ’50s.

Starting at 6 p.m., the general public is invited to check out the hundreds of classic cars, a DJ playing music from the era and a variety of contests for adults and children, including a Fan Belt Toss and awards for Best Bobby-Socker and Best Greaser.

“American Graffiti” will start around 7:30 p.m., and showings of “Dolphin Tale,” “Abduction,” and “Contagion” will also be available.

Participation in the car show will be $10 for adults and $3.50 for children aged 3 to 11. That price includes movie tickets. For those who come at or after 6 p.m., the price will drop to normal box office fare, $7.50 for adults and $3.50 for children for two movies each.

Cheshire said the theater probably won’t make much of a profit because of the price to rent “American Graffiti” and the cost of various prizes, but he hopes it will allow guests to “step back into a time when things were a little … simpler and just have a good time, kind of remembering the way things were when the drive-in was built,” he said.