The 66 Drive-In Theater in Carthage, Missouri, is being used for area church services, including Easter Sunday, while the facility remains closed for movie screenings.
The theater tentatively planned to reopen for the season on April 17. However, owners Nathan and Amy McDonald told the Joplin Globe they wouldn’t screen movies again until the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the danger of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has passed. They don’t want to endanger employees during the outbreak.
The newspaper reported:
At least two area churches are using the lot to conduct drive-in services. On Easter Sunday, the McDonald family will serve as host to seven area congregations “from morning to night.” Nathan McDonald has scheduled each church, planning for an hour service with a 30-minute window in-between.
One congregation will use the theater’s video streaming capabilities to conduct an evening service on Holy Saturday.
Nathan McDonald said he heard about other drive-in theaters offering their facilities for churches that wanted to hold services but were concerned about exposing their parishioners to the virus. The First United Methodist Church in Carthage was the first to approach him.
“We have a good piece of land and knew we could do this and stay safe,” McDonald said. “The (Jasper County) community supports us, and we wanted to give back to them.”
McDonald grew up in the church. He knows it’s a gathering place for people of all ages. He offered the use of the facility, encouraging people to come, remain in their vehicles and worship. […]
“My mom died a year and half ago,” McDonald said. “She went to church her whole life; it was her thing. She was the matriarch of the family.
“That first week, as I was putting up the sign to read, ‘Welcome, Let’s Have Church,’ I thought about my mom and how much she would have enjoyed this. It’s been good for me, on a personal level, because it’s gotten me back to my roots.”
According to the National Park Service, the 66 Drive-In opened on Sept. 22, 1949, along Route 66 on Carthage’s west side. It closed in 1985 but reopened 13 years later.
Virtually everything at the theater from more than 70 years ago is there, including the neon marquee, playground, ticket booth, concession stand/projection booth and the 66-foot-tall screen.
The 66 Drive-In was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003.
(Image of the 66 Drive-In in Carthage, Missouri, by Mark Goebel via Flickr)