“It sort of indicated the importance to the community of that place,” Hal Stickley said to a large crowd gathered at an auction house.
He was describing the public reaction to a book he placed at the Korner Shop in Franklin over a year ago to obtain community opinion on the closing of Warner’s Drive-In.
“There were like 287 people that signed off on that book. Some were signatures, some were comments, some were offers of money,” he noted.
Stickley is now a board member of The Warner-Drive-In Cultural and Resource Center, Inc. (WDI), a non-profit organization consisting of an nine-member board. After more than a year of planning, the group met with the public for the first time to discuss plans for the the drive-in. The meeting was held Saturday, June 25 at M&M Auction Emporium in Franklin.
“Most of us that got together love movies, and love that drive-in. We don’t want to see the community lose that,” WDI Chairman Bob Davis said in an opening address to the crowd.
The meeting moved into what the immediate needs are to reopen Warner’s Drive-in, which closed at the end of Summer 2014.
The drive-in’s closing was directly related to the movie industry’s conversion to digital film, eschewing the traditional reel to reel film that was costly to produce. Today, nearly all movies produced by Hollywood are shown on digital projectors, which can be directly downloaded from the studio, rather than shipped to theaters.
The price-tag for one of these projectors is between $45,000 and $80,000.
“We debate that every week. How much is this projector going to cost us?” Davis told the crowd. “It’s going to cost us a lot, and that’s why we’re doing these fundraisers.”
The fundraiser that evening was an auction by M&M, in which 100% of the proceeds went directly to the drive-in fund. Nearly $1,629 was brought in by the auction, with $288 more donated directly to the organization. Additionally, an anonymous donor made a matching contribution of up to $1,000 of the auction’s take.
Another large step in right direction for the group was the donation of a house by the late Ruth Scott.
“Ruth’s last wishes before she died was for her girls to deed the property to a non-profit, so that the money stays within the county,” said WDI Treasurer Jessica Basagic. “It has been deeded to us. When we sell it, 100% of that money will go to the drive-in fund, which will be a huge contribution to getting the projector.”
The projector is just the first step in getting the outdoor theater fully operational. The concession stand that once served patrons popcorn and cheeseburgers will need to have new kitchen equipment, in addition to renovations for upkeep of the building.
“We’re estimating that is going to be about $20,000,” Gail Price, WDI secretary said near the end of the meeting. “And we do need people to help volunteer.”
Price also spoke about long term plans once the essential goals are met.
“Right now, we’re just leasing the land until we raise the money. We’re going to need, in two-year’s time, $150,000 to buy the property.”
Once the property is purchased, Price discussed adding new features to the property. The new ideas included constructing a stage below the screen for outdoor concerts and plays, remodeling the interior of the screen (once meant to be a residence) to house a museum dedicated to the community’s memories of the drive-in, as well as a film class.
“By the time this project is done we hope to raise $350,000, from today until we get the drive-in fully functional,” Price concluded.
For more information visit warnersdriveinwv.org, find the Warner’s Drive-in page on Facebook, or contact any of the board members. In addition of Davis, Stickley, Basagic and Price, the board also includes Vice-Chairman Dr. King Seegar, Brianna Bruns, John Connor, Mike Mallow and Kim Ruddle.