NORTON, Va. (WJHL) — The Central Drive-In in Norton, Virginia has stood the test of time by opening each season for the past 70 years.
Since 1952, the Central Drive-In has ushered in crowds each summer screening the latest blockbusters. It holds the title of the oldest operating drive-in in the state of Virginia.
The days are gone when a paper copy was needed to determine the movie listings for the whole summer and indicated whether they were in color. Now, patrons can purchase their tickets online.
Relics from the past still stand around the property. Posts that once held speakers now serve as guideposts for parking after owners turned to a radio station to broadcast the sound.
From “King Kong vs. Godzilla” to “Top Gun: Maverick,” the theater has played both new releases and old favorites each weekend from April to October.
Paula Herron and her family are only the second owners of the drive-in in its 70 years of operation. The Kiser family owned it before them.
The first highlight Herron is sure to mention is the view of the mountains beyond the screen. It’s something she said attracts people from far and wide.
“We get people that come from three and four hours away in Kentucky,” said Herron. “We get Tennessee traffic, and we get people from all over that come here to see just the unique location that we have here.”
Herron said it’s hard to find a bad seat on the property because it is naturally tiered after being built into the mountainside.
“We’re built on the side of a mountain, said Herron. “So, our levels go up, so people can sit wherever they want and you don’t have to worry about the car in front of you.”
She encourages people to get comfortable — whether that’s sitting in their tailgate, the bed of their truck or in lawn chairs.
For the Herrons, it’s been a family affair. Their youngest son, Ryan, was just a year old when they bought the business.
“We wanted to see it last forever,” said Herron. “We wanted to see it hit 100 years or 150 years because we knew our children would want to keep this drive-in going.”
The Herrons own the home right next door; Herron said it came with the purchase of the theater. Ryan Herron, now 17, spent his childhood wandering the grounds and his teen years helping out during the season.
“It’s been an experience that’s unique that I don’t think that many other people living like 5 feet away from it,” said Ryan. “So, I think it’s just interesting.”
In honor of 70 years, you can get a 70-cent cup of vanilla or chocolate ice cream or junior popcorn the weekend of June 10. They will also be offering admission giveaways and giveaways for the kids.
“Jurassic World Dominion” will be screened at 9:20 p.m. followed by “Harry and the Hendersons” at 11:40 p.m.
To purchase tickets visit the Central Drive-In website.