Posted Online: July 07, 2005, 12:00 am

Galva drive-in opening tonight

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By Stephen Elliott, selliott@qconline.com

Photo: Laurel Hodge
Galva Autovue Drive-In Theatre

Justin West remembers the days when movies were commonly shown on a big outdoor screen, a speaker was placed inside a driver's side vehicle window, and the smell of buttered popcorn filled the car.

Tonight, Mr. West, 41, of Galva, is trying to resurrect some of those memories and create a successful business venture with the opening of Galva Autovue Drive-In Theatre, No 8 James B. Young Road, Galva.

Built on 5-1/2 acres on the north side of town, Mr. West's new drive-in features two 20- by 48-foot screens that are on opposite ends of the property. Capacity is about 250 cars, he said.

Drive-in movie theaters reached their peak in the 1950s, according to www.drive-ins.com. There are fewer than 500 operating in the United States today compared to almost 5,000 some 40 years ago, according to the Web site.

Mr. West said he has been pursuing the idea for his business for the past 2-1/2 years.

"It has taken me a lot longer than I anticipated," he said Thursday. "I got out of college and started entering the '90s looking for work.

"I looked around and said, `What happened to all the drive-ins?' They were either closed up or torn down.

"I thought it would be nice to get a drive-in going and that they were a viable entertainment option."

Mr. West thinks drive-ins had a premature decline. He said a lot of theater chains that owned drive-ins decided they could make more money building multi-plexes.

"Drive-ins were originally on the outskirts of town," Mr. West said. "Suddenly, they were surrounded by shopping centers and residential areas and land was more valuable."

Tonight's opening will feature "Mr. And Mrs. Smith" and "Star Wars 3" on one screen and "Sahara" and "The Longest Yard" on the other. The shows start around 9 p.m.

"I had a chance to go after this," Mr. West said of his drive-in. "I enjoyed it a lot as a kid."