Harvest Moon Drive-In

1123 S. Sangamon Avenue,
Gibson City, IL 60936

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Harvest Moon Drive-In

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The Harvest Moon Drive-In opened in the summer of 1954, which parking for around 300 cars. In 1965, the theater was heavily damaged by a tornado, but was repaired and reopened the next year. Due to declining attendance, the Harvest Moon Drive-In was closed in 1978, but reopened by a new owner two years later.

A storm in 1981 once again inflicted heavy damage to the drive-in, but this time, it wasn’t reopened for nearly eight more years, again by new owners. In 1996, the screen from the Clinton Drive-In was moved to the Harvest Moon, after that nearby drive-in was closed, and the Harvest Moon became a twin.

The drive-in’s season runs from April-September, and it screens first-run features. The Harvest-Moon also hosts car shows and fireworks displays.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 14 comments)

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on March 1, 2009 at 5:44 am

Here is part of a June 1989 article from the Illinois Daily Herald:

GIBSON CITY, Ill. – With the reopening of a local drive-in theater, “a dinosaur is coining back,” and people once again will be able to enjoy summer evenings and movies simultaneously, says operator Michael Harroun. “There’s been a whole decade of people who haven’t seen them,” said the 33-year-old Onarga resident, who is re-opening the Harvest Moon Drive-In this month with state-of-the art equipment. Harroun and his next-door neighbor, 34-year-old John Talbert, are leasing and remodeling the Harvest Moon on Illinois Route 47 near this east-central Illinois community of 3,500.

Harroun and Talbert think the movie-going public isn’t ready to give up on the drive-in. “I honestly believe these things go in cycles,” said Harroun. “We’ve missed a whole generation. There’s a whole generation that should be able to enjoy a drive-in.” They plan to start showing movies under the stars on June 16, charging $2 a person. The theater will be open Friday through Monday nights through October.

The Harvest Moon Drive-In was closed in 1977 by owner Clifford Orr, who said he quit the business for health reasons. It reopened for a few years in the early 1980s under a lease. It is in relatively good shape, according to Harroun, because it was rebuilt after the screen and concession stand were destroyed by a tornado in 1965.

Harroun and his brother, Patrick, own and operate the Onarga Mode theater, which they opened in 1984, and the Watseka Bon Aire, which opened in 1987. Both are indoor theaters. Harroun and Talbert believe people will travel up to 30 minutes from as far away as Champaign-Urbana and Bloomington-Normal â€" two towns without drive-in movies.

Silicon Sam
Silicon Sam on December 2, 2009 at 4:14 am

Harvest Moon goes Green with addition of a wind turbine generator:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bGIxh_jcwzc

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on May 15, 2010 at 4:21 pm

In 1956 it parked 350 cars and was owned by Clifford Orr.

TLSLOEWS
TLSLOEWS on May 16, 2010 at 7:17 pm

Thanks agin Mike.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on March 30, 2012 at 2:35 am

It’s open for the season! Website

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on July 25, 2012 at 7:14 pm

Article from News-Gazette.com (IL) 7/22/12

Onarga Theater owner Randy Lizzio needs $65,000 to buy a digital projection system to keep his movie house going. But he wouldn’t think of asking a bank for a loan.

After all, the Onarga Theater, which shows first-run movies, barely breaks even.

So like the owner of the Harvest Moon Twin Drive-In Movie Theatre in Gibson City, Lizzio has turned to raising money for a digital fund.

So far, he has brought in $7,700, with about $2,500 of that coming from a taco dinner and a silent auction of donated and new items at the community center in Onarga.

“We’ve got a long way to go. We’re hoping in the process prices will come down a little bit, and hopefully, we’ll be able to meet our goal,” Lizzio said.

Mike Harroun, owner of the Harvest Moon, needs to raise even more, roughly $165,000, for digital projection systems for his two screens as the film industry moves permanently from film to all-digital releases.

So far, his digital fund is about $7,000 — and nearly $80 of that came from three Bloomington girls who gave Harvest Moon the profits from the lemonade stands they put up twice in their town.

“They wanted to keep the drive-in there because they really love coming there,” Harroun said.

Sanford Hess, operator of the Art Theater in Champaign, which turns a profit, but not a big one, knew he couldn’t afford an $80,000 digital projection system. (The costs of the systems vary according to the size of the theater, distance from the screen to projection booth and other factors.)

So last year, he recommended that a community cooperative form and take over the Art. An interim board of directors was established and set a goal of raising $100,000.

The elected co-op board recently reported that it has unofficially reached its goal — unofficial because shares ($68 each) purchased since July 4 have not yet been counted. The board is now taking applicants for a manager and expects to take over the theater in mid-August, four months earlier than expected.

The Art is among a few smaller indie theaters that apparently have survived the digital tsunami. Others haven’t been so lucky.

“It’s like a train that’s been rolling down the tracks for six years,” Hess said. “Everybody saw it coming, and finally it’s here. A lot of theaters will close. It’s unfortunate.”

Indeed, the National Association of Theatre Owners predicts that 20 percent of North American theaters, representing some 10,000 screens, will not convert to digital and will likely disappear from the American landscape.

Already, two area movie houses have shut down: the double-screen Gem in Villa Grove last year and Hoopeston’s Lorraine Theatre in April. Both buildings are for sale.

Soon after the closing of the Lorraine — an art-deco house built in the 1920s for stage events and movies — a Hoopeston resident named Scooter (his legal name) established the Friends of the Historic Lorraine Theatre Facebook page, mainly to gather ideas from the “Cornjerker Nation” on how to preserve it.

‘Unacceptable loss’

Why does saving small-town and indie movie houses matter? Michael Hurley, an owner of two independent theaters in Maine that have already undergone digital conversion, gave an answer to that in a commentary he wrote for Indiewire, published in February:

“I think of the millions of dreams and careers that have taken flight in a movie theater. I know that the economic development power of movie theaters has been profound. People want to live where there are theaters. For the same reasons that every successful city center, mall and downtown works to attract and keep a movie theater, small towns all over the world stand to lose a foundation that has kept them connected to the world. I believe the loss is unacceptable.”

And contrary to what some believe, the U.S. government, unlike some other countries, does not offer grants to help movie houses with digital conversion. Historic theaters in the United States don’t even qualify for tax credits for purchasing digital projection equipment, Hurley wrote.

Hess said people on both coasts are making the decisions that hurt small-town movie houses and drive-ins, mainly by arranging digital-projection system financing agreements that are available to only certain types of theaters.

The Art, Onarga and Harvest Moon do not qualify.

Via the agreements, Hess said, a third party basically buys the digital equipment on behalf of the theater. The third party is paid back by the movie studios over a period of time. The agreements don’t always finance all the costs of digital conversion and carry restrictions and requirements.

So Harroun, Lizzio and Hess have been forced to be creative to try to continue to provide services they feel are important to their communities.

Harroun, for example, believes there is nothing more American than going to a drive-in movie. So far, though, only six of the nearly 400 drive-ins nationwide have been able to convert to digital, he said.

“A lot of mom-and-pop ones — they’re going to close,” he said. “They can’t afford to convert; the money’s not there. I have a tremendous business and can’t afford it.”

Angels needed

While Hess tells people to go to Harvest Moon now because it might not be around much longer, Harroun believes he will raise the money for the digital conversion at the theater he has owned for 23 years.

“I’m positive I’ll keep the drive-in open. I just got to keep everybody on course,” said Harroun, who also owns Angel Services, an automotive repair and sales shop in Onarga, where he lives.

For its digital fund, the Harvest Moon so far has sold T-shirts, and purses and wallets made of film. Harroun also plans a family-friendly concert with various acts, including a headliner, on Sept. 8 at his drive-in 30 miles north of Champaign.

He’s selling $10 chances to win a 1967 Mustang he donated to the cause. The name of the winner will be drawn at the September event.

Like the Onarga and Art, Harvest Moon shows first-run movies seven nights a week. Admission is $6 a head with kids younger than 4 admitted free.

All three theaters also pride themselves on selling concessions at lower prices than the multiplexes; the Onarga Theater even sells fresh, homemade caramel corn.

Lizzio, who with his wife, Cheryl, bought the 215-seat Onarga four years ago, has been taking cues from the JEM Theatre in Harmony, Minn., when it comes to raising money for digital conversion.

The JEM turned to the community; it responded, donating more than $40,000 to the theater’s digital fund.

Lizzio points out that Harmony and Onarga are around the same size. Harmony has 1,020 residents; Onarga, 1,368.

“They’re like a success story; they were trying to raise the money, and they actually did it,” he said. “It’s very possible to do this because it’s been done by other places. Even in this economy.”

However, Lizzio realizes he and others in the same ship are running out of time. Though he’s upgraded his movie house, including the addition of digital-ready sound, he needs a digital projection system. Fox Movies has said it will not produce any 35mm films in 2013 and beyond; theater owners believe other movie studios are roughly on the same track.

So Lizzio, who also owns a sign shop in Onarga and recently started a promotional go-kart business, plans to step up fund-raising efforts in September. One will be the screening of the 1949 Gene Autry movie “Loaded Pistols.”

The single-screen Onarga Theater, which shows first-run movies seven days a week and charges $5 admission with kids 3 and younger admitted free, also sells T-shirts and on-screen advertising. All the profits from those sales go into the theater’s digital fund.

Lizzio said the majority of his fund-raising efforts will continue to be geared toward giving people something for their money, though the theater has received some no-strings-attached donations.

“I’m still positive,” he said. “I guess you have to go out, you can’t just sit back and wait and hope that people will donate. You have to be constantly out there to make more people aware of what you’re trying to do and educate them on what’s going on. A lot of people don’t know.”

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on September 25, 2012 at 9:13 pm

Another long article from the News-Gazette (09/25/12)

GIBSON CITY — Mike Harroun, owner of the Harvest Moon Twin Drive In Movie Theatre, doesn’t count himself among the nation’s 1 percent.

“I’m not one of the rich. I’m a working-class guy. I’m Joe the Plumber. Unfortunately, Momma didn’t leave me a silver spoon,” he said.

He’s not complaining. He said in the past 23 years, he’s done something he enjoys: owning and operating, with the help of family, the Harvest Moon, some 30 miles north of Champaign.

He said he might not be able to do it much longer if the theater doesn’t raise $120,000 to buy digital projection equipment as the movie industry moves to all digital releases this and next year.

So far, Harvest Moon has raised $17,250, mainly by selling chances to win a 1967 Mustang. Pam Jeffries of Roberts was the lucky ticket holder.

Her name was drawn earlier this month at a fundraising event at the drive-in; it featured live music by seven bands and inflatables for the kids.

But it was not as successful as Harroun had hoped. Friends told him the reason was he didn’t sell alcohol.

So, like other hard-hit movie theaters, including the Onarga Theatre, Harvest Moon has turned to online fundraising via Kickstarter, which bills itself as the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects.

Here’s how it works: People go to a Kickstarter project they support and pledge a certain amount of money. The organization trying to raise the money must set a goal. If the goal is not met by a certain deadline, Kickstarter does not charge the bank accounts or credit cards of people who made pledges.

So far, Harvest Moon has raised $37,200 in Kickstarter pledges toward the $120,000 goal. The deadline for pledges is Sept. 28.

“If we do hit the goal at that time, that’s the day the credit cards and bank accounts get charged,” said Ben Harroun, manager of Harvest Moon and Mike’s son.

“If we don’t hit the goal by that deadline, all of the $37,000 pledged disappears, and we’re back in the same boat trying to see what we can do to continue to stay open to the end of the year.”

The Onarga Theatre, which is 48 miles north of Champaign, opened its Kickstarter effort last week. So far people have pledged $2,066. The Onarga Theatre Kickstarter goal is $50,000; the deadline is Oct. 18.

Onarga Theatre co-owner Randy Lizzio estimates he needs $65,000 altogether to convert to digital projection at his single-screen movie house, which shows mainly first-run movies.

He’s already raised $9,700 through fundraisers, including free screenings of classic movies. People who show up are asked to make donations.

Among other fundraisers planned by the theater are a variety show Oct. 7 and a speakeasy in the near future. The village granted Lizzio a one-day liquor license for the speakeasy.

“If it doesn’t happen through Kickstarter, we’ll find another way. We’ll keep fighting,” he vowed.

Regarding its Kickstarter campaign, the Harrouns said all it would take to succeed would be 200 persons each pledging $500.

Harvest Moon recently doubled the rewards for moviegoers who pledge at high levels. For a $500 donation, for example, the person or family would receive eight movie passes that would allow one person per pass to go to as many movies as possible during a season at Harvest Moon.

“If you want to come out 10 times and you bring eight people, each person gets in free for those 10 times,” Ben said. “They get popcorn and pop, T-shirts, hoodies. With a few trips, you cover your pledge. You’re getting well above and beyond the value of what you’re pledging.

“It’s a way for people to pre-pay for coming to the drive-in, in a way.”

Because Harvest Moon is open only six months a year, it does not qualify for the virtual print fees that movie companies give larger theaters, Mike Harroun said. The eligibility requirements for those are stacked against drive-ins and smaller independent movie theaters, he said.

“They literally bought the equipment for big theaters,” he said. “For the little guys, they did nothing. They just left us hanging.”

When some people ask why Harvest Moon, a for-profit venture which does a brisk business, needs to ask for donations to pay for digital projection equipment, Mike Harroun said those people don’t understand his business.

He said Harvest Moon doesn’t get to keep much of its gross.

The drive-in, which shows first-run movies, has to pay the movie companies and for electricity and other expenses.

“What people don’t understand is the film companies keep most of your money anyway,” Mike Harroun said. “I have a good business; everything I have is paid for, but it’s a $120,000 minimum to put (the digital projection) equipment in.”

And because Harvest Moon is open half a year, Harroun feels he can’t ask for a bank loan.

“Banks don’t really care much for part-time businesses,” he said. “I do 90 percent of my business in probably two months.”

Harroun also owns Angel Services, an automotive repair shop in Onarga, where he lives. It donated the Mustang to the fundraiser.

Harroun used to own the Onarga Theatre but sold it a few years ago to Randy and Cheryl Lizzio, who also live in Onarga.

The Harrouns said if they don’t reach their fundraising goals, Harvest Moon won’t remain open.

“We’re hoping we can make our goals,” Mike said. “That’s all we can do. Two hundred people at $500 or 400 at $250 — if you break it down that way, it doesn’t seem that bad.

“We will throw a big party if we make it, and all of those people will be invited.”

jwmovies
jwmovies on October 8, 2012 at 6:25 am

For some reason, South Sangamon does not map correctly. Use Illinois 47. This drive-in is across from Pizza Hut.

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