The 49er Drive-In Theatre’s 55th season is a go.
After losing about a third of its steel screen during the Great Blizzard of
‘10—you remember the one, near hurricane-force wind gusts, 30-foot waves on
Lake Michigan—brothers Mike and Steven Cotton, co-owners of the 49er, were
putting the final touches on a new screen on Thursday afternoon.
The actual screen—manufactured in Ohio by Jerry Selby, who’s been building
drive-in screens for 50 years—is the same size, 45’ x 90’, erected on a
superstructure 60’ x 90’. “It’s kind of big” compared to other drive-in
screens, Mike said.
Selby “had an idea of what we wanted,” Mike added. “They made a lot of it in
the shop in Ohio and then trucked it here in pieces.”
The Cottons—who purchased the drive-in in 2000—recognize just how much of a
throwback the 49er is. There used to be several thousand drive-ins across
the country, Mike said. Now there are only about 400, while in all of
Indiana there are only about 20. The number in Northwest Indiana (Porter,
Lake, and LaPorte counties): one, the 49er.
“We’ve been well received,” Mike said. “We’re thought of very fondly. Porter
County has been very good to our drive-in. We have folks coming from all
over the region to see movies here. And it’s really a great treat for big
families. The kids stay in your car, you don’t have to worry about them.
There’s plenty of places for them to run and play, tire themselves out. And
you get two movies for the price of one.”
New on the Menu
Ticket prices aren’t changing this year but the concession stand is: in
addition to the full menu which the 49er has traditionally offered, the
Cottons have re-modeled the concession stand to make room for a deep-fryer
and a conveyor oven for pizzas. “We’re going to make our own pizzas here,”
Steve said. “We’re going to make fresh pizzas right here.”
Pizzas won’t actually be on the menu this weekend—the Cottons are still
installing the equipment—but “in the very, very near future” you’ll be able
to get a fresh pie to go with your movie.
The 49er’s opening its 2011 run—tonight through Sunday—with Hop,
rated PG, starting at 8 p.m.; followed by Fast 5 with Vin Diesel,
rated PG13, starting at 10 p.m.
The box office opens at 6:30 p.m. and you might want to get there early
tonight and Saturday, as the Cottons, in honor of Hop, have made
special arrangements for EB the Easter Bunny to make an appearance. Kids can
have their pictures taken with EB, there’ll be a bunny-hop sack
race—starting at 7 p.m. sharp—and while supplies last candy-filled eggs for
the little ones. And, of course, prizes.
In addition, tonight and Saturday you can buy a ticket for a chance to win a
piece of the old 49er screen, with all proceeds benefiting the Caring Place
of Valparaiso and the Royal Families Camp for Abused Children.
No change in the ticket prices this year: $8 for adults, $4 for kids 5-11,
kids 4 and under are free.
The 49er—named one of America’s Top 10 drive-in theaters—is located at 675
N. Calumet Ave. (Old Ind. 49).
Visit the 49er’s website at www.49erdrivein.com or call 462-6122 for movie