Cottage View Drive-In Movie Theater Bids Farewell
Forty-six years ago, the very first film to play at the Cottage View Drive-In in Cottage Grove was "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World."
Thursday, the drive-in's swan song was a sing-along version of "Grease." The farewell event included classic cars and vintage costumes.
The owner of the land the theater sits on, Gerry Herringer, is selling the property to Wal-Mart.
He's been trying to sell for years, in part because in Minnesota, you can really only make money at a drive-in half the year. It's just too cold to be open the other six months.
At the same time, drive-ins just don't draw the crowds any more. There are simply too many other movie-viewing options out there in the digital age.
Walmart is only buying a little more than a third of Herringer's land, but the retail development will bring Cottage Grove more than 16 times the amount of property tax the theater currently pays.
For the people who loved the theater, it was heartbreaking to watch Cottage View fade to black.
Thursday was a last chance to sit under the moon, and the stars, and enjoy a flick in the great outdoors. There was car cuddling, candy, popcorn, and family time.
For Diane Lowry-Luther, going to the drive in was a rite of passage. "I have been in a trunk of a car with about six people so we did not have to pay, as a teenager."
On a grander scale, the drive-in is an American experience on the verge of extinction everywhere. There used to be more than 100 drive-ins in Minnesota alone. After the Cottage View shutters, only five remain--in Lake Elmo, Litchfield, Long Prairie, Luverne, and Warren.
According to theater manager Barb Stofferahn, "By the time you pay all the bills and all of the land and property taxes and things it's not a big huge profit, no."
She and her husband Ed (another manager), not only met at the theater, they got married there.
"It's so much part of our life," Ed said. "We created a lot of great memories for people. We made it fun."Mark Saxenmeyer can be reached at email@example.com
Note: Despite the Thursday finale event, Cottage View will remain open on weekends through October, weather permitting.