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Panel approves drive-in

July 08, 2003|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

An Eldersburg, Md., company says it hopes to return the "great American pastime" to Washington County, at least through this fall.

The Washington County Planning Commission on Monday approved a seasonal drive-in theater at Mason-Dixon Dragway, and movies could begin as early as Friday night.

American Family Entertainment, owned by Alan Ackerman and Nancy Davis, submitted the site plan for the theater at the dragway, on U.S. 40 east of Hagerstown. The Planning Commission approved the plan by a unanimous vote.

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Planning Director Robert C. Arch said American Family Entertainment will use an inflatable screen for movies to be shown on Friday and Sunday nights through November. Arch said the theater will be the only drive-in in Washington County.

Moviegoers will listen to the films through their FM car stereos or portable FM radios, said Tom Riford of Associated Engineering Sciences, the project's consulting firm.

The movies will be shown on a 50-foot screen through the fall after drag races. The drive-in will have enough room to accommodate 300 cars. The screen can be set up and taken down in about an hour.

According to American Family Entertainment's Web site, the drive-in also may show sporting events, concerts, theater and other features.

Riford said the dragway's owner, Elmer Wachter, contacted American Family Entertainment in an attempt to boost attendance at the dragway after it had been hampered by a series of rainy weekends.

"It's been very challenging - with 10 of 12 racing weekends experiencing rainy weather and wet conditions," Wachter said in a written statement. "I have always been looking for a way to add value to this recreational facility, and the drive-in movie theater seems to be a perfect use for the dragway, after hours.'

Riford said the movies will be appropriate for families.

"I want everyone to know that there won't be X-rated movies ever shown at a movie theater that I am involved with," Ackerman said.

Riford said Ackerman is considering showing "The Wizard of Oz" and "Grease" to kick off the drive-in's debut. Moviegoers usually will see a double feature for one price.

Arch said if the drive-in is successful this year, it's possible American Family Entertainment will bring it back next year.

"It seems to me that drive-in theaters are making a comeback," Wachter said. "We certainly have the space for such a venture, and I am hoping that there are a lot of moviegoers in the area who'd want to give this a try."

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