Forgive me folks, for diverging a little bit from the Rivoli Theater. I’d like to make a special mention of one of my own favorite outdoor theaters- the Ski Hi in Muncie.
1993 at the Ski Hi from the BSU Daily News
Starting on Friday, March 18, the Ski Hi Drive In in Muncie Indiana was demolished.
Many of us have wonderful memories of the Ski Hi, and the unceremonious end to the theater may have certainly come as a shock.
The truth is, the Ski Hi was doomed many years ago. It’s no coincidence that the drive in’s last year of operation was followed by the implementation of daylight savings time in 2006.
Back in 1993, the question of daylight savings time was asked of then-owner Jim McClary, who had purchased the drive in from Y and W Theaters in 1989. (You may remember from my previous posts, that the last owner of the Rivoli, Dave Battas, began his theater career working for Y and W at the Ski Hi in the 1950’s).
McClary was asked by the Ball State Daily News DN 7-8-93 Vintage Reel Estate article just how much longer can the drive in, this icon of summer activity hold out? His response- “as long as Indiana doesn’t go on daylight savings time, I think we’ll be all right.” He went on to note that if daylight savings time were in effect, the first movie couldn’t be shown until 10pm, and that creates a problem for families and children.
In 2002, the Ski Hi closed, then reopened briefly in 2005 before closing permanently . Year after year, the condition of the theater deteriorated. One of the last movies, Herbie the Love Bug, remained posted on the marquee for some time afterwards.
Eventually, the elements began to take their toll on the projection screens as well as the projection booth and concessions stand.
In 2009, I stopped by the Drive In and shot a few images on pretty May morning…
As you can see, by 2009 the theater screen had a hole in the roof and was open to the elements.
In 2012, I stopped by again and made a few more images…
The deterioration was much more evident. Its also important to note, for those of us who would have loved to see the Ski Hi re-open, that another obstacle was the movie industry’s move to digital projection starting in 2014. The estimated $70,000 digital projection system would be a tremendous financial burden to any drive-in theater, whose profit margins have tended to be narrow for the last couple of decades.
In 2016, Delaware County announced plans to demolish the Ski-Hi Drive-In, built in 1952. County officials cited the drive-in’s failing structural integrity and its proximity to the busy intersection as reasons for tearing down Delaware County’s last drive-in theater.
On March 18, demolition commenced…
The headlines were certainly heartbreaking for many of us…
On March 20, I visited the demolition site…
The screen was down. Small piles of twisted metal left in its wake. Severed foundation support struts served as a reminder for the countless winds the screen successfully endured by the Ski Hi’s sturdy construction. Heavy equipment was perched on top of piles of metal sheeting, to keep them becoming airborne in the spring weather. What was particularly striking to me was the poor condition of the concessions/projection booth. Those hoping for a possible reopening will likely be sobered by these images.
The above image is from the projection booth, and yes that is water in the workbench drawer.
A final look at the projection room before demolition…
Submitted 4/3/16 by John D. Disher email@example.com