Osawatomie drive-in faces uncertain future - KCTV5 News


Community bands together to save Osawatomie drive-in

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Once drive-in movie theaters were the place to go on a Friday night. Now, only a handful are still in business and they face new challenges. But one group is acting fast to keep the film rolling at the last drive-in theater in Miami County, KS.

The iconic Midway Drive-In movie theater has been going strong since 1953, but now they need a lot of money to keep going. Luckily, the community is banding together to help them raise $100,000.

Family after family rolls in by the carload, looking to enjoy a double feature on a Friday night.

Paul Dimoush was a farmer who, thanks to a little nudge from his wife, skipped a chance for a quiet retirement and decided to buy the property seven years ago to become a drive-in owner.

"She said she got tired of watching corn grow and looking at cows so here we are," Dimoush said with a laugh.

He's the first to admit they don't do it for the money.

"We made $600 last year. The five previous years we lost money and we don't need a tax write off. We put every penny back into it," he said.

Instead, Dimoush said he does it for the kids, giving them a fun and safe place to come with their family. The couple used good old-fashioned elbow grease to rewire the entire drive-in's audio system themselves. They also anchored the large poles and speakers themselves.

But the equipment at the Midway Drive-In is dated and now Dimoush said the film companies are demanding they upgrade to a digital system, which is anywhere from a $75,000 to $100,000 expense.

"We (currently) got a 1953 Century camera. It runs every day," he said.

He and his wife were considering shutting down because they couldn't bring themselves to raise ticket prices.

"The main reason is there is nothing for the children to do. If they don't have anything to do they will be in trouble," Dimoush said. "We are trying to hold the cost down because we are not rich. The neighborhood is not rich. We are all in the same boat."

And the community wasn't about to let them close down, either. Led by Councilwoman Tamara Maichel, they've banded together to sell ad space and T-shirts, as well as holding fundraisers to help cover the upgrade costs.

"It's so important, it's our heritage, it's a way of life for a lot of people that have taken their kids and grandkids," she said. "It gets passed down from generation to generation. It's very worth saving."

"This is a little bit of Americana that I feel is going by the wayside. We need to maintain the drive-in, we really do. There are only seven drive-ins in the state of Kansas right now," said Osawatomie Mayor Mark Govea.

The community has been going a few weeks and have already collected over $3,000.

Community leaders are also working with Sonic restaurants in all of Miami County to coordinate a fundraising effort. City leaders, the mayor and volunteers will car-hop to raise tips for the drive-in.

Dimoush knows there's still a long way to go, but now he's hopeful the projection room will keep humming for another six decades.

"Oh we're going to do it, we're going to do it," he said with a laugh.

The best way to help out is to visit Osawatomie to see a movie but, if you'd like to make a donation, you can check out the Midway Drive-In Digital Fund's Facebook page. The group also has a PayPal account to offer an easy way to donate.

The theater's number is 913-755-2325 and it's located at 29591 West 327th St. (Route 5), which is midway between Osawatomie and Paola, KS, and midway between Interstate 35 and the Missouri line.

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