McHenry Outdoor Theatre Going Dark?

posted by btkrefft on June 16, 2005 at 5:15 am

McHENRY, IL — The McHenry Outdoor Theatre, which has been entertaining McHenry County residents since 1955, and is one of only three operating drive-ins in Chicagoland, may be having its last season this year, according to the Chicago Tribune. The still very popular theater located between the village of Lakemoor and the city of McHenry is surrounded by ever-encroaching development, and for a couple years now, there has been the rumor of the McHenry Outdoor’s demise.

The theater’s manager, Danielle Munnich, does acknowledge that the owner of the McHenry, Tom Rhyan, doesn’t have a buyer but is in fact considering selling the property. “So far no one has made the right offer.” says Munnich. Just last week, Gary Castaldo, a DJ on STAR-105 FM, made news by having himself chained to a tree on the drive-in property to raise awareness of the drive-in’s potential closure, saying he’d remain there until he got 5,000 signatures on his petition to save the theater (which he did in six hours).

The McHenry has recently been part of a border dispute between the city of McHenry and the neighboring village of Lakemoor. McHenry has petitioned the Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission to provide the sewer and water service for the drive-in, and if it is granted, to afterward annex the property. Lakemoor, which currently controls the property, is naturally opposed to the petition.

Whichever community ends up with the property will benefit from the commercial redevelopment should it occur. Brian Gunst, a drive-in employee who met his wife at the McHenry has been hearing about the closing of the theater for years, but doesn’t put much stock in them. “I hope it never closes,” Gunst says.

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Comments (3)

Batwoman on June 16, 2005 at 6:44 pm

That would suck big time. It wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I went to a drive in for the first time. After moving up this way, I went to the Grayslake one (that being close to where I live) but didn’t go all the time, just a few times. Then it closed and is now a frickin’s Jewel! (sorry, I used to work there back in high school and college, so to see them build over something like this can be frustraing/annoying)

But I’ve only driven past the McHenry theater and keep saying I’m going to go one of these days. I have yet to go, and would be very annoyed if this goes the way of the dinosaur along with the rest of the outdoor theaters and old palaces.

I find it both funny and annoying that corporations are trying recapture the old palaces by coming up with themed multiplexes. How stupid, they had these gold mines right under their noses. But rather than maintain them, they let them die out and ultimatly tore then down for boring, looks like every other modern, building.

loebbaka on June 20, 2005 at 9:48 am

Being a long time McHenry outdoor theater patron I would hate to see the theater go. I have so many great memories at the theater, from going with my parents and watching for the top of our van, to going with my boyfriend in high school (yes-we did watch some of the movie), to now going with my husband and 3 year old daughter. It has been such a tradition in my family and in the community to pack up the car, find a good spot to watch the show and load up on yummy snacks from the concession stand. It will be such a sad day if/when the theater shuts down. Please keep the theater alive so that the traditions can continue!!!!

Aleksandra on July 1, 2005 at 10:59 am

With so much open space and beautiful farmland falling to the developers, this is just another nail in the coffin of our rural treasures that made life a pleasure. Theaters such as this have sentimental value that should never be compromised, especially for the almighty dollar. Just how much more land needs to be destroyed, and how many more houses and countless strip malls need to be built before the damage ends ?

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