How I came across the Family Drive-in
My best friend MK moved to Winchester, VA a couple years ago to work at the University. My initial reaction was excitement for the job opportunity and sadness because she’d be so far away. On the bright side, I saw this as a chance to see a new place.
Before my 3rd visit, I discovered there was a local drive-in while surfing the web and my regular drive-in websites. How had I not known? I made it my goal to scope out the drive-in as soon as possible.
October 20, 2012:
MK wasn’t too keen on going to the drive-in, so we just stopped by during the day to see the site. I fell in love … it was my first time seeing the classic car speakers and a playground in front of a screen. I promised myself (and told MK) that the next time I visited we were going for sure!
July 19, 2013:
We arrived at 6:45 pm for a 9:00 pm showing. You never know how crowded it is going to be or what time to arrive with drive-ins! I wanted to have a good spot and since it was MK and her friend Rick’s first time at a drive-in. There were probably about 20 cars already, mostly at the first screen. Our movies were, “Grown-Ups 2” and “The Heat.”
When you arrive to the Family Drive-In the first thing you should notice is the back of Screen 1, which serves as a marquee and announcement of the theater’s name. It slopes out and down from the top of the screen, white background and red letters (they light up later!). Below the name there is a letter board for both screens naming the movies showing.
I liked the classic aisle lights and Screen # light. A giant median as well as the concession stand/projection booth separates the two screens’ spaces. After we parked and set-up I walked around the snap some photos. The speakers were by far the most interesting and neat aspect of the Family Drive-In. I frequent Delsea DI often and we visited Shankweiler’s; however, neither drive-in has speakers remaining. After reading a couple books on drive-ins and an overabundance of articles I was ecstatic to see the speakers in person! They are about 4 feet tall and only one company makes and supplies parts for them!
Screen #1 has playground equipment in front – swings, a slide, etc. This is another common feature of drive-ins during their hey-day, but my first time seeing them in use. Once the movie starts, the playground closes. Screen #2 had a couple benches out front.
The concession stand had a range of food choices at reasonable prices. They have an inside and outside set-up, with certain items available outside only (including funnel cakes and sno-cones). I purchased a t-shirt as memorabilia – there were two design choices and a TON of colors. I ended up choosing a light gray because I liked the bright/neon green on the design.
Overall, we had a great time! Everyone I spoke to was very nice and helpful. The food was good, movies were funny, and the night was cool (which was a blessing considering the night before was 100 degrees).
The theatre has been open for 57 years! It opened on June 14, 1956, owned and operated by the Dalke Family of Woodstock, VA. In March 2009, Tim Dalke leased the theatre to Jim Kopp (the lease runs for another 7 years). The theatre holds about 400-500 cars (conflicting data between articles).
The Family Drive-In started as a single screen theater. In 1989 they added the second screen. They open around Mid-March through to November. Each night there 4 movies playing – 2 movies per screen.
Recently, the Family DI announced they will be converting to Digital by the end of August! This is great news for locals and drive-in enthusiasts and supporters. Many theaters are threatened by this conversion to digital and the Family DI was able to make the change!
There have been several articles and interviews recently about the Family Drive-In, generating attention and business for drive-ins all over (The Washington Post, Washington Post 2, BBC’s Radio 5, Roll Call, and VOA).
Go Visit! They were great people and a great drive-in. Visit their Facebook page or website and if you get a chance, visit the actual drive-in!
5890 Valley Pike
Stephens City, VA
Photos from the 1st visit, just looking at the property: