News Column

Elko Speedway adds drive-in movie theater

February 19, 2014

By Chris Hewitt, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.

Feb. 19--The Elko Speedway features races only on Saturdays, but, starting this summer, it'll show movies every night of the week.

The new drive-in theater doesn't have a name yet -- "We're kicking around a few things. Basically, it'll be the Drive-in Theater at the Elko Speedway," says the speedway's president and owner, Tom Ryan -- but the plan is for it to open Friday, June 6.

Ironically, Ryan is not a movie fan. But, when the Cottage View drive-in theater closed in 2012, Ryan saw an opportunity. So he bought the 116-foot-by-46-foot screen, which came apart in pieces that are 12 inches wide and 20 feet high.

"It was a successful theater, and it seemed like a good business to be in because nobody else is doing it," said Ryan, who says admission will be in the $10-$8 range.

(The only other drive-in in the metro area is Lake Elmo'sVali Hi Theatre, which, according to its website, is closed for the season but will re-open in April.)

Ryan also has purchased a new digital projection system -- all theaters are currently digital or in the process of converting from film to digital -- and plans to focus the Elko drive-in on family programming. Whereas Vali Hi generally programs triple-features, the Elko venue will show no more than double-features.

"My mom always said nothing good happens after midnight, and I'm sticking to that rule," said Ryan, noting that dusk -- and, thus, the start of the first movie -- doesn't hit until 9:45 p.m. at the height of summer.

Elko Speedway already has an inflatable bouncy house and a playground, from which movies will be visible, and Ryan says they'll continue to bring in the occasional petting zoo to appeal to young moviegoers: "We're used to catering to kids and we'll cater to them on movie nights, too."

Chris Hewitt can be reached at 651-228-5552. Follow him on


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Source: Saint Paul Pioneer Press (MN)

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