BILLINGS — The Amusement Park Drive In between Billings and Laurel is one of only two drive-in movie theaters still in existence in Montana. Many were worried that the drive-in was set to close permanently after a short hiatus last summer, but that’s not the case.
“When we first built it, it was pretty much old people bringing grandkids out because they were the only people that knew what a drive-in was,” said owner of the drive-in, Riley Cooke.
He built the drive-in from the ground up, and his family has been showing movies on this big screen for the past 17 years.
“We see the families, “hey, I was here when I was young, you know, new young families now, and that’s really fun for us,” Cooke said.
That 17-year-long run almost came to an end during the pandemic.
“We had trouble just getting open, ‘cuz they kept making rules that we couldn’t make a drive-in,” Cooke said.
COVID brought a halt to not only the drive-in, but to Hollywood as well.
“We were showing old movies, Hollywood didn’t release anything new, so we were showing Grease,” Cooke said.
The theater finally opened last year but was met with another setback: worker shortages.
“We had to close early because of management problems,” Cooke said.
Cooke hopes the new season will mark a new beginning, and he hopes the crowds will return.
“We’re going to go so far this year to get people to come again, to try to do free Wednesday nights starting in May,” Cooke said.
He’s also looking for sponsors to make free movie Wednesday happen.
Cooke says the drive-in isn’t a moneymaker, but it’s about the experience. A nod to the past, combining the old with the new.
“It’s a really feel-good place to be,” Cooke said.