New Drive-In Theater Planned in Scottsbluff

May 28, 2020, 8:54 a.m. ·

Billy Estes stands in what will be the parking lot of the Midwest SkyView Drive-In Theater in Scottsbluff (Courtesy photo)

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A group that runs a historic theater in Scottsbluff is expanding on an old idea, by planning a new drive-in theater in that western Nebraska city.

Friends of the Midwest Theater has been showing drive-in movies since March in the Legacy of the Plains Museum parking lot in Gering. NET News caught up with the group’s executive director, Billy Estes, as he was surveying a new, larger venue.

“I’m sitting in the parking lot of what is going to be the new Midwest SkyView Drive-In theater,” Estes related. “It’s going to be located out by the Western Nebraska Regional Airport out on the east side of Scottsbluff. Looking out into the valley I can see the sugar factory and Scottsbluff National Monument. It’s going to be a great place to watch a movie and see the view.”

Plans call for space for up to 165 cars, with enough space for families to sit outside and still observe social distancing.

“It allows families to have a touch of nostalgia and that experience of going to the movies which I think is this uniquely American way of storytelling that we crafted and mastered, and be able to do that in such a way that provides that safe distancing measures outside,” he said.

Estes said the economics of reopening the 700-seat indoor theater while theaters are limited to only 25 percent of capacity don’t make sense, and drive-ins fulfil an important need.

“We’re looking for something to do to be out and get social. I think our human nature is to be social. And I think we’re looking as humankind ways to do that that appear to be safe and hopefully are safe at the same time. And I think that’s where this renewed interest in drive-ins has come from,” he said.

Estes said he fields questions every day from communities around the country thinking about doing something similar. And he said he hopes some good effects linger after the pandemic has passed.

“I think if good things can come out of the pandemic, such as we as a country learn to sort out our ways in supporting the local food movement or the local business movement, I think that there’s a hope that drive-in theaters can also find that sustainability out of this pandemic issue that’s brought it back to the top,” he said.

The Midwest SkyView Drive-In Theater is scheduled to open June 5. And what will be the first movie shown? Estes can’t say for sure, but he offered some pretty broad hints.

“It’s yet to be confirmed. But I can tell you that I’m looking at a movie that invokes dreaming and fields, because this is one of those moments that, you build it and they will show up,” he said.