Drive-in theater making a comeback in Ionia

IONIA, Mich. (AP) — Most people are content to keep their fond childhood memories as memories, but not Dan Lower of Ionia.

He recalls a time when his parents would take the family to a drive-in movie theater.

“My parents dressed us up in our pajamas and we all went off to the drive-in and I’d end up falling asleep,” Lower told the Lansing State Journal ( http://on.lsj.com/13DEWok ). “I don’t think I ever watched a whole movie.”

Lower hopes today’s families will want to capture their own memories with Danny Boy’s Drive In, which he and his wife, Gail, opened last month just south of Ionia near the site of a drive-in theater that closed in 1985.

“With this day and age, we thought families were looking for something to do together,” Lower told the newspaper.

A website that tracks Michigan attractions, Water Winter Wonderland, says the state has 10 drive-ins, about the same as it had in 1998. That’s a far cry from the 1970s when Michigan had more than 130.

Las Vegas-based Drive-ins.com says 355 drive-in theaters remain in the U.S. The peak was about 4,000 in 1958.

Lower said they decided to invest in a drive-in on the advice of their son, Bart Lower, who did an internet search that showed 90,000 people a month look for a drive-in in Michigan.

“You can’t take a toddler to an indoor theater because of the crying,” said Bart Lower, who is the drive-in’s director of operations and marketing manager. “You can take them to a drive-in. If you’re sitting in your car, and Little Johnny says ‘What does that mean?’ you don’t have to shush them.’ ”

Danny Boys’ concentrates on G, PG and PG-13 movies to focus on families. Before showings, the drive-in often holds games, raffles and dances with the theater’s mascot, “Danny Boy.”

The theater opened with “Epic.” The next week it showed another animated film, “Monsters University.” Danny Boy’s can hold 497 cars.

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Information from: Lansing State Journal, http://www.lansingstatejournal.com

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