As of Tuesday, February 14, 2017
DALLAS — The final credits are rolling.
Motor Vu Drive-In’s Facebook page had a “thank you” message posted Friday on behalf of the treasured drive-in, one of a handful left in Oregon. It said that, as feared, the 2016 season was indeed the last for the drive-in. The Motor Vu opened in 1953.
Owner Jeff Mexico said he had known for the last few weeks that last year was to be the last, but wanted to begin the process of clearing out equipment and supplies before letting the community know.
“We tried. We tried to do crowdfunding,” Mexico said. “We are sad to see it go. We put a lot of time and energy, heart and soul into this place. We love what we do.”
After receiving an overwhelming response in October to the possibility of the drive-in closing for good, Mexico thought it had the support to stay open. About 300,000 people saw a potential “farewell” Facebook post at the end of the 2016 season. Many indicated they would help with the effort to keep the Motor Vu alive.
Mexico launched a crowdfunding campaign to purchase the land from owner J.W. Fowler, which is developing the properties surrounding the drive-in. He had plans to seek grants, apply to the National Historic Registry, and plant trees on the fence line to cut down on light and noise to nearby houses.
The campaign didn’t turn out as planned, however. After 45 days, the crowdfunding effort generated about $5,000 from 121 donors, far from the 300,000 who initially expressed support.
Mexico said if they all had pledged $5, he could have raised $1.5 million.
“The cost of a Starbucks espresso could have saved the drive-in,” he said.
While sad to see the drive-in he and his partner operated for almost a decade close, Mexico is grateful for the support that was offered.
He said Jim Fowler has been more than gracious.
“He’s been really good to let us go as long as he did,” Mexico said.
Mexico also thanked Dallas Mayor Brian Dalton for trying to help find an alternate location in Dallas. The former Weyerhaeuser mill site was suggested, but Mexico said the property is too expensive and the location would make drive-in traffic burdensome in town.
Mexico said, despite his momentary optimism last fall, the plan to keep the theater at the Fir Villa location wasn’t going to be ideal in the long run. The houses planned on neighboring property would have been too close not to cause disruption to neighbors and moviegoers.
“I don’t think it would have worked out anyway,” he said.
Mexico is selling off equipment at the drive-in and should be off the site at the end of February. Still the owner of the Fox Theatre in Dallas and Star Theatre in Stayton, Mexico will turn his attention to his other businesses.
“I will concentrate on the Fox in the summer, since I won’t be here all summer,” Mexico said. “The Star is doing well, but the Fox needs some more people coming through the doors.”
He said he has plans in the works for the Fox that will be announced later.
Mexico hasn’t given up on the idea of a drive-in, either, just not in Dallas. He’s looking at properties elsewhere in the valley.
“I’m hoping I will find more affordable land,” Mexico said.
Comments on Friday’s Facebook announcement illustrated that Motor Vu fans will feel the absence of the drive-in just as much as Mexico. People posted photos and stories of their trips to the drive-in over the years.
“Thank you for providing a great place for our family to make some wonderful memories,” wrote Wendee Schmitke, one of many who commented to express similar sentiments. “Your drive-in will be sorely missed.”