MAHONING TOWNSHIP, CARBON COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Virgil Cardamone found himself in the middle of what he calls, “the most insane drive-in story in American history”. Just a couple of weeks ago the Mahoning Drive-In was in danger of being shut down for good.
The drive-in is back for good! The Mahoning Drive-In’s partner, booker and curator, Virgil Cardamone, says he dreamed of running a drive-in movie theater since he was 13.
His dream was almost cut short when he learned a company called Greenskies Energy LLC was buying the land to build a solar farm. The drive-in would be demolished.
“As somebody who has grown up on a stage, who has taken to writing film and went to film school you could not script this story. People would look at you and say, ‘it’s a little too on the nose,’ but this is something that’s really happening,” said Cardamone.
“I was devastated that that was gonna happen, I told many people if this place falls it’s gonna hurt me more than when my drive-in fell 30 years ago,” said a fan of the drive-in Rick Robinson.
William Shirer’s parents built the drive-in in 1948 and ran it from 1949 to 1962, “I was upset because it’s been here for 72 years, and I hope it’s here for another 72 years,” said Shiar.
In 2014 Cardamone says the nostalgia of those years inspired them to show movies on 35 mm film. The move attracted fans from all over and kept them coming back.
“It makes it more nostalgic to see it in the same way that we have always seen movies until just a few years ago, to see what’s actually running through a machine, projecting into the system,” stated Robinson.
“The people that love the Mahoning love it so much and feel like if I were to lose this I lose a piece of my youth and a piece of my culture,” stated Cardamone.
Determined to save it, fans of the drive-in made their voices heard and the company listened. Within 24 hours, Greenskies backed out of the deal.
Cardamone says that shows drive-in culture the sense of community and nostalgia it provides is invaluable and it’s here to stay.
“This is like a lifelong dream come true for it to be as magical as the Mahoning has become. Again, you couldn’t script this, you could not script it,” said Cardamone.
Cardamone called it a real-life David and Goliath story one where the little guy wins because they believed in something that’s what more than 900 people were there to celebrate tonight.
He told the crowd “the drive-in will never die” and thanked Greenskies for listening to them. The drive-in is now in the process of purchasing the land.