You might be surprised to know that 20 drive-in theaters still operate in Indiana. One of them, the Skyline, is on the Michigan Road, in Shelbyville. And it’s expanding.
Things didn’t look so good for the Skyline in 2008 when I surveyed the Michigan Road from end to end. I photographed its sign then — and noticed the For Sale sign posted nearby. I figured the Skyline’s days were numbered.
Joe Gaudin, an independent filmmaker in Shelbyville, bought the struggling venue. Audiences were thin for the first few years, but in time he turned it around. It thrives today. Gaudin told me that his theater draws devoted drive-in fans from a 75-mile radius.
I won’t tell Gaudin’s whole story here — look for an article on the Historic Michigan Road Association’s Web site soon that does. My wife, Margaret, has become our marketing director, and she plans to profile interesting businesses and their owners all along the Michigan Road. Shelbyville was our first stop on that tour.
But I will say that Gaudin believes adding a second screen will secure his drive-in’s future. He’s working now to make it real, and he hopes to open it during 2020.
The season hadn’t begun yet when Gaudin met us, and of course work was beginning on the expansion. This is what a drive-in looks like under those conditions!
Gaudin showed us the projection room. We got to see the modern digital projector, critical to the drive-in’s ability to show first-run movies. But next to it stood the film projector and its lighthouse. This is vintage equipment. RCA manufactured the projector in 1948. I didn’t find a manufacturer label on the lighthouse, but Gaudin said it dates to the 1930s.
The vintage equipment lets him run old monster and exploitation movies that never made the leap to digital. Those movies create some of the most popular weekends at the Skyline!
I’ve documented Indiana’s historic Michigan Road extensively. To read all about it, click here.