Nostalgia blends with 21st century entertainment when a pop-up drive-in movie theater arrives at the Historic Columbia Speedway this summer.
The pop-up drive-in is the latest project selected by What’s Next Midlands, a group that generates ideas for improving the Columbia area and funds one of those projects four times a year.
“We encourage everyone to suggest projects on our website,” says Laura Ros, project manager for What’s Next Midlands, “projects that make the Midlands a better place to live.”
The latest project to receive approval is the pop-up drive-in movie theater.
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FunFlicks is a nationwide business that provides equipment for outdoor movies, including projectors, screens and audio. John Banks, Historic Columbia Speedway manager and owner of the local FunFlicks franchise, will help complete the project. He plans to work with What’s Next Midlands to market and promote the movie series to draw large crowds and generate revenue.
“And please know that revenue will be coming back to this group,” Banks says. “Once we clear the costs, we want to funnel money back into (What’s Next Midlands) so maybe one of the other projects can also be funded.”
What’s Next Midlands has investors who meet quarterly to vote on projects. The pop-up drive-in theater was selected among proposals that included a bicycle co-op and bike drive, a trolley on the Gervais Street corridor and a pet-friendly business campaign.
Banks has owned the local franchise of FunFlicks for about five years. What’s Next Midlands contacted him when someone suggested a drive-in movie on the website and it generated interest.
The pop-up drive-in will be held on the nine-acre infield at Historic Columbia Speedway, which will accommodate about 300 cars. There will be a 55-foot screen and folks will be able to sit in cars and listen to movies through the radio or sit outside and hear via speakers.
The plan is to have food trucks and art exhibits. “We want to make it more of an event than just a movie,” Banks said. “This project is to provide something Columbia doesn't have, and provide something for a lot of people.”
Plans are to have a series of movies this summer at the Historic Columbia Speedway. Ros says the public is encouraged to submit ideas for which movies will be shown at www.whatsnextmidlands.com or via Twitter. Details such as dates and times, and cost have not been determined.
About 43 investors voted on the project, which will receive $2,500 from What’s Next Midlands and will raise additional money through sponsorships. What’s Next Midlands began in 2015. Its first project was outdoor seating on Main Street. The group also is working on a public art initiative that will use laser light to reflect off the Congaree River between Blossom and Gervais Streets, and will tie in with Solar Eclipse activities. Other projects in the works include recycling along Main Street and river access for kayakers.
About Historic Columbia Speedway
Location: 2001 Charleston Highway, Cayce
History: The speedway held NASCAR races from the 1940s through the 1970s. Richard Petty, NASCAR’s all-time winningest driver, drove in his first race at the speedway in 1958.