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Art City’s last picture show

Drive-in theater will bow out at summer’s end

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SPRINGVILLE — On opening night of "Chicken Run" and "The Kid" at Art City Drive-in, the line of cars waiting to get in stretched for more than four blocks down Main Street.

The place was packed. Hardly a stall left open. Lawn chairs and kids everywhere.

Unfortunately, however, all nights at drive-in theaters are not as busy. The outdoor movie season is also a short one, with the property sitting vacant most days in a year.

Art City Drive-in owner Wesley Webb has found there's just a lot more money to be made these days selling a prime piece of Main Street property than walking around on summer nights hanging speakers back on the poles.

"It takes a lot of people in there to keep things going, and you have to do enough business in four or five months to make enough profit for the whole year," Webb said.

This fall, more than four decades of movies on Springville's outdoor screen are coming to an end. The drive-in property is being sold and, beginning next spring, will be developed into a seven-lot commercial center. Preliminary plans for the property were approved by the City Council last week.

"Go get your last movie in," said Kevin Hawkins, an agent with Amsource, the Salt Lake commercial development firm developing the land.

Currently, plans call for a road to be built off Main Street just south of the drive-in, about 700 North, that would extend east to 400 East. Four commercial lots would be developed north of the new road and three to the south.

Hawkins said the property is being designed to give developers "maximum flexibility" for future tenants. The development could take on more of a business-park look, a shopping-center look or even include a strip mall. It's possible one larger tenant could want the location.

"We're working with a variety of tenants right now," Hawkins said. "We have some pretty exciting things in the works, but nothing we can release at this time."

Originally the property was being considered as a future location of a Smith's Food and Drug store. However, Smith's backed out of the picture when Wal-Mart began construction on a superstore in southwest Springville near I-15.

"I think Smith's is on the sidelines right now because of the Wal-Mart project. I guess there's only so many grocery dollars to go around," Hawkins said.

Regardless of the type of commercial development that ends up on the property, Webb plans on this being the drive-in's last season.

"I think the people will miss it," he said. "But the time was right to do it now."

Webb also operates, but does not own, the Pioneer Drive-in in south Provo. He said whether Pioneer opens for another season depends on the development plans of the drive-in's owners, the Marv Cox family of Springville.

E-MAIL: jimr@desnews.com