Double feature under the stars
By Jay Stinnett

As the Bourbon Drive-In theater nears the end of its 67th season, owners Lanny and Trish Earlywine showed two classic Tim Burton movies, "The Nightmare Before Christmas" and "Hocus Pocus," the weekend before Halloween.

Among fields where horses and cattle graze, a large white theater screen rises above the landscape. A line of cars and trucks snakes along toward the entrance of the Bourbon Drive-In theater and past the marque listing the evening's movies: “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and "Hocus Pocus."

Once they park their vehicles, adults mill about greeting friends and neighbors while children play nearby. Inside the snack bar neon blue signs light the faces of customers ordering hot dogs for $2.69, popcorn for $2.79 to $5.85 and soft drinks ranging from 99 cents to $3.19.
As the movie starts, patrons snuggle up in their vehicles with their food ready for the show.

Lanny and Trish Earlywine have owned the Bourbon Drive-In since 1994, the second generation to operate it in its 67-year history. Within a week of its opening in 1956, Everett Earlywine started managing the drive-in and eventually he and his wife, Helen, bought it in 1972.

In 1994, their son Lanny, now 76, and his wife Trish, now 73, purchased the drive-in. Every year since then, weather permitting, on Friday and Saturday nights from April until late fall they open the box office and show a double feature.

Lanny started helping his parents run the drive-in when he was 9. Now, as an owner, he is known as the “Maintenance Man” or “Popcorn Man.”

For as long as she can remember, Trish has loved watching movies. During the past 29 years, she has had a career with Lanny doing just that. “I don’t think we’ve ever missed a night being here," Trish says. "When you’ve got a business like this – mom and pop – it’s your whole life."

Trish calls Everett Earlywine, her late father-in-law, “Mr. Drive-In,” and credits him as the one who taught her everything she knows about how to run a drive-in theater.

Customer Chris Fryman appreciates the consistency of the drive-in. "I've been coming here since I was a kid," Chris says. "It hasn't changed much."

By the intermission, the crowd begins to dwindle. As cars pull out of the entrance and head down the road, only die-hard movie fans remain.

Gilbert Downey and his family stay for both movies. I'm "lovin' it," Gilbert says. "I didn't realize how much I missed this."

As the Earlywines consider the future, Lanny says, "the drive-in is too much for one person to manage." With only one daughter in the next generation of the family, the future of the Bourbon Drive-in theater seems uncertain.

Lanny and Trish share a moment in the concession stand of the drive-in, one of the last drive-in theaters in Central Kentucky.

One of the first customers to arrive for the double-feature were Christi (from left), Zoe and Ashley Harrington. Christie and Ashley came to the drive-in because Zoe is a big fan of the movies.

A couple snuggles up under a blanket, with their radio station tuned to 88.3 FM, to watch "Hocus Pocus."

Gilbert Downey and his family order soft drinks and snacks during the intermission between movies.

A digital projector projects movies onto the drive-in screen.

As darkness falls, a film comes to life on the screen while customers visit the concession stand.