SHINNSTON, W.Va. – Sunset Drive-In Movie Theater was set to open in May, but after a break-in and major damage to the projector, the opening day has been pushed back.  

John Ellis is the General Manager of Sunset Drive-in Theater. He’s working around the clock to get his drive-in back open after the vandalism he found in February. 

The projector at Sunset Drive-In theater (WBOY Image)

“This is the heart of the drive-in, and if I can’t hit the screen with a decent film where it looks good and it sounds good and it’s operational it’s, I can’t relax,” Ellis broke off while talking about the projector. “When I walked in and saw that (vandalism), I sat down on the chair, lit up one of my cigars and I really, at that point in time, I was ready not to open at all.”  

The vandals trashed the projector room, cut wires to the projector and stole equipment, some of which is so old it’s hard to come by, according to Ellis. 

“The two computers, they’re made by adobe, and they quit making them and servicing them about five years ago. So, we’re operating on borrowed time,” he said.   

Ellis considered not opening at all this year, but he dug deep and realized some things are worth the hard work like the joy animated movies bring to kids when they play at the drive-in.  

“Have you ever really listened to a kid laugh?” Ellis asked. “When they laugh it’s just, they’re into it, they’re into it all the way, and when I’m walking around the field and I hear that, that makes everything worthwhile.”  

The big screen at Sunset Drive-In (WBOY Image)

Luckily, Ellis kept the manual to the projector when they originally bought it which has guided him along the way. He’s been using his experience as an electronic technician in the navy and had some help from community members. So far, the audio and pictures work, but he’s unsure if the safety switches will accidentally go off during a show.  

Ellis said there’s still a lot of work to be done, but no matter what, the drive-in will be opening Friday, June 10. The box office will open at 7 p.m. and the movie will start around 9 p.m. The film they will show is still undecided.