By MARLA MARRS
It has been a hang out spot and a great place to watch the latest movies for 59 years. Generation after generation has loaded up in the car or truck and headed out to the eastern outskirts of Stanton just as the sun begins to drop in the western sky. The destination: The Mountain View Drive-In.
For 58 of those years, counting this season, David Baker and his family have run the show, so to speak. But this may be the last hurrah for the drive-in. New required technology, Red Box, Netflix and stadium seating in theaters have put pressure on the good old days of hanging out at the drive-in.
Drive-in theaters have been a great part of the American culture and represent a time of prosperity, peace and a stable economy. The first drive-in theater was built in Camden, New Jersey and opened on June 6, 1933. Drive-ins did not become prosperous until the 1950’s. Cool cars and a generation that wanted to get out and do things, could not wait until the drive-in opened.
In the state of Kentucky there are twelve drive-ins that remain open, including the Mountain View, but plans to close next season are in the works.
The Mountain View is located on East College Avenue in Stanton. It was built by Stanton’s own Denzel Faulkner, Jack Kidd and M.J. McHappy from Beattyville in 1956. Faulkner’s cousin, David Baker, and his wife, Lorna, have owned the Mountain View Drive-In since 1957. They added a second screen in 1980.
On the last Friday night of April, people began trickling into the drive-in area a few minutes before 7 p.m. Children made pallets on the ground with their blankets, pillows, and stuffed animals. When they were finished they set off to play with their friends before the movies started.
The drive-in theater in Powell County is not solely about the movie – it is a tradition, a place to be with each other, to get together and enjoy the company of others. Many people are disappointed to hear that the theater will close next year, unless someone leases it.
People come from far and near to the drive-in. Two girls from Wisconsin were there on Friday. They had been visiting the Red River Gorge and were excited to see their first drive-in movie.
Jordan Byrones, from Louisville, and Natalie Lajagas, who lives an hour east from Stanton, were also visiting the area. It was their first time at the theater, but they said they have always wanted to stop by and see a movie when passing. Byrones was particularly interested in the history and the workings of the theater.
“Imagine the movies that has been played over the years,” he said, as he speculated about the old vehicles that used to fill the semi-circle around the screen, and how this theater is a part of history that will be lost when it closes.
“We’ll be telling our grandkids about the drive-in,” said Byrones.
Darlene Drake, a native to Powell County, has been watching movies there since she was a little girl. She said when she was 16 she used to take her brother and sister and the neighbors-a whole car load. Drake now brings her grandchildren to see movies at the theater.
“That’s why I bring my grandkids here. I want them to remember it [the history and experience of the drive-in]. I hate to see it go.”
Heather Curtis, another native from Powell County, and her daughter Abrianna Lawson have been coming to the Mountain View for a long time. Curtis said she had been going to the theater since she was 10 years old. When asked what movie she saw there first, she paused for a moment and smiled.
“The first movie I saw here was Ghostbusters,” she said as she watched Lawson play with David Baker’s granddaughter.
Curtis said, “It will be sad. It’s like a big get together. It’s good, clean fun.”
Lawson was quite sad to hear about the theater closing too. She said what she liked most about it was her friends and the movies.
Brain and Tracy Creech from Wolf County had brought their two sons, Logan and Caiden and their family friend Grant Rogers to see Furious 7.
“We’ve been going here for 40 years at least,” said Brian.
The Creeches had dates at the theater when they were in high school.
“Now we’re bringing our kids here.” he said. When he was younger, he said, “We used to sit in the back of the bed of my dad’s 4-wheel drive truck in lawn chairs.”
Tracy said that her cousins in Ohio came to Kentucky not so long ago to see a movie at the drive-in because they do not have a drive-in close to them.
The children also hated to hear that the drive-in may be closing. Logan Creech said his favorite thing about the drive-in is that he didn’t have to be quiet.
When Baker spoke about the theater, he said what he enjoyed most about running the theater was “seeing other people have a good time.”
Baker said he has enjoyed running the theatre and seeing the joy it can bring. “Seeing other people have a good time,” Baker said was his biggest enjoyment of being the owner. “It’s been a part of my life, my hobby, it will be like another phase of my life; it’s over. I hate to see it leave.”
Baker has decide to close the theater because it has not been profitable and it’s becoming more difficult for the theater to obtain the format of film that the theater can show.
“It’s been a part of the county for so long, I hate to see it leave,” Baker said.
He is hoping that maybe someone will want to keep the iconic site still going. Baker is interested in leasing the theater.
But until then, those who have visited the drive-in, brought their kids and then their grandkids to the Mountain View, will have at least one more summer to relive those glory days and still see great movies locally. The last credits may roll when the theater closes in the fall, but Baker is hoping a sequel can keep the old drive-in alive.
After all in the movies anything is possible.