REFLECTIONS - Drive-in tradition

It has been a seasonal tradition for decades in the area pack up chairs, blankets, pillow, toys and junk food, then stay out until 2 a.m. watching movies at the Star View Drive-in. For Shelley Ann and Dave Sehl, it's a weekly tradition. They bring their son, Jaden Fannin, almost every Sunday evening.
Norwalk Reflector Staff
Jul 25, 2010


It has been a seasonal tradition for decades in the area pack up chairs, blankets, pillow, toys and junk food, then stay out until 2 a.m. watching movies at the Star View Drive-in.

For Shelley Ann and Dave Sehl, it's a weekly tradition. They bring their son, Jaden Fannin, almost every Sunday evening.

"This is our Friday night actually," Dave said, because the couple works on the weekends and chills out at the movies after getting off work Sundays.

"We usually pig out," Fannin said, and they come prepared with a softball, football or Frisbee to enjoy games before the movies start. Last weekend, he brought a friend, Nathan Plas. The boys were ready to see "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" and "The Spiderwick Chronicles."

Steve Witter owns the Star View with his cousin, Jan Doughty. They enjoy providing the chance for families to spend time together and watch movies under the stars.

"I'm proud that there's something like this which has three generations enjoying themselves together," Witter said.

"I've been here since '74," he said. Witter bought it with Doughty last summer when the former owners, Bill and Sandy Steel, decided to sell.

"It has always been a family thing and I hated to see it go," he said. "It has been in the back of my head for 30 years. I started off cleaning the lot and then taking tickets and then it turned into everything else."

He keeps the theater open every night during the summer so people can get to the movies even with an unconventional work schedule. Two new movies start every Friday and often include recent releases.

"We can get movies 10 days after they come out," he said, so he usually tries to package a new release with one from a few months earlier to keep costs down.

"Every Monday morning I have to dicker movie prices with Los Angeles," he said.

"Strangers" and "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" will begin Friday.

The weather can be a problem sometimes, Witter admitted, but said he still had patrons on a night earlier this season with it was 50 degrees and raining.

He's also come to open the ticket booth and had more than 10 cars already waiting in line.

The Star View is a bargain for moviegoers since the $7 admission includes two movies. Children under age 12 are usually free, but Paramount Pictures requires the theater to charge $5 for children aged 5 to 11.

Many people head up to the late for weekend relaxation, but Marty and Sarah Smith bring their children from Sandusky down to the Star View on Ohio 20 between Norwalk and Monroeville several times each summer.

"It doesn't cost a lot with kids under 12 being free," she said. "The kids love it and its big excitement for them." The family first found the drive-in as they drove by one day and comes back every year.

Another favorite of the drive-in for many patrons is the concessions.

The women there have many years experience between them. Shirley Sipp has been working there for 49 seasons and said she has a good crew that tends to come back year after year.

"I get a good crew and they stay for awhile," she said.

Sandy Sanders, who works there with her sister, Juanita Windgate, said the women enjoy working together.

"The food crew knows what they're doing," she said. "Everybody works together."

Sanders remembers coming to the drive-in when she was just a child. "Fifty years ago they had slides and a merry-go-round on the play area," she said.

The projectionist is another worker who learned his job at an early age.

Brian Sipp, Shirley's son, started when he was just 15 years old. While the concession stand has had many of the same types of food available for many years, the projector's booth has seen many technological advances. Sipp knows both the old methods and today's version since he has worked there for so long.

Thanks to Witter and Doughty's dedication to keeping the business open, area residents can still enjoy a summer tradition that was born in the 1930s.

Richard M. Hollingshead, of New Jersey, started out with a 1928 Kodak projector mounted on the hood of his car and a sheet hung in his backyard for the screen. He used a radio for sound.

To test for weather conditions, Hollingshead even set off his lawn sprinkler to simulate rain as he tinkered with his idea for outdoor movies.

He eventually got a patent in 1933.

Akron got Ohio's first drive-in in 1937. That number jumped to 80 in 10 years and eventually to 189 by the late 1960s.

Drive-ins went on the decline after that with about 80 percent of Ohio's closing down. But a resurgence was seen in the late 90s with some drive-ins that had sat idle reopening.


just plain disgusted

Very good story I hope they will continue to keep the drive in open for years to come. I remember going there alot as a kid. Now I take my kids. I went through Plymouth just yesterday and passed their drive in which is now a junk yard. Too bad they didn't keep their's open for Plymouth residents.


I think the reporter made a mistake -- I heard the price for children age 5 to 11 is only $1, not $5, and that's only for Paramount pictures.

That's a pretty good deal ! And be sure to check out the concession stand -- there's nothing better than a hot dog from a drive-in theater !

It was about 25 years ago they turned the Plymouth Drive-in Theater into a junkyard. I wish they had kept it as a drive-in -- it was a cool place to watch a movie.


We enjoy the drive-in as often as possible during the season.One of the few things you can still afford to do with a bigger family.The owners and employees are doing a great job. Thank you.

David Deerest.

Excellent memories of the drive in. I can remember my mom and dad taking me and my little sister there to see the original 'Planet of the Apes' and 'Soylent Green'. They took us on more than 1 occasion, but those 2 movies stand out in my mind, of course.
I've been there a few times in the last 10 years or so, my wife hates going there. I think they have the best french fries in the whole county. (Better then Berardi's) We took the kids a couple of times when they were little, but it was so crowded and loud...

swiss family

lolololololololol omg Deer Dave.. please!!! you are making our family look like stupid hillbillies!!! you do realize, don't you that the sound from the movies is coming from your own car's stereo, over your own speakers, don't you??? so if it was too loud for you and the kids, all you had to do was turn the volume down on your own car stereo..... R O T F L M A O, A S A S D !!!!!!!!!!!!!

Deer Dave,

Pretty much what I'd expect to hear from swiss. Totally ignorant remarks as usual.


I too saw Soylent Green at the StarView. It was just a sci-fi movie and at the time it didn't look too realistic that anything like that could possibly happen,however, I don't think we will end up eating dead people made into crackers but the other things such as a piece of beef being $150 is a good possibility!
At any rate,it was an awesome movie! Another one that I saw there was Macon County Line,which I just purchased on DVD. Still as good as the first time I saw it. The only difference is now I'm not watching it with the rain pouring down!

just plain disgusted

Hey Swiss here is a news flash for you the speakers used to be on poles not over the car radio. I can remember that from when I was a kid and I just turned 37. Typical swiss.

David Deerest.

Swiss, get back on the meds, please. These people think you're rude, and I know it's all part of the crush you have on me. But you may as well give up. I don't want you. MMMMMMMM'KAY???


Glad to see an icon still operating. Anyone remember Walking Tall? We were in the back row & she & I had difficulty viewing the complete show.


The Star-View is one of the great things about this area. I have been going there since I was a kid. It is still my favorite place to see a movie.

David Deerest.

Ah yes...Buford Pusser. Great movie.

"Take your best shot... 'cause it'll probably be your last."

Great movie.


That explains alot -- when he was little, Swiss bumped his head when he fell off the swingset at the Drive-In.

teufelshunde - Were you in the back row of your theater -- or the back row of your own car ?


Hey Richard; I was under 20 she was I need to keep typing? Ah hum.

David Deerest.

Anybody remember going to the Sandusky Drive In? That was a 'different' drive in...


lol i love going to the drive in... now i take my kids to the drive in to watch the more kid friendly movies... its a time honored tradition in my family to go watch movies...

swiss family

there is really nothing better on a beautiful summer night , than to be in your own car, munching on your own brown bag of fresh , buttery, salty popcorn, watching a great movie at the drive-in!!!

we are so lucky to have such a great piece of history, preserved here in our area.. the only down side, is the ill behaved kids with their loud crying, who are bored, and want to go home.. and to make it worse.. these cry babies don't even pay to get in, but they are making my experience terrible, by their bratty ways.. i guess really, that it's not the kids that need to be corrected for being bad... it is really the parents of these brats who need to be reprimanded, for allowing their kids to control; them, and for not standing up to these brats, and becoming a parent..instead of a friend!!!

David Deerest.

I like 'the only downside is...' comment by swiss.
Has to take a positive and flip it to a negative right away.
Next time, stay home, swiss. You chew too loud.

How I see it

is let's put swiss in the trunk and go to the movies.


teufelshunde: I get the picture. When I said " was a cool place to watch a movie." in my early post, I should have put "watch" in quotation marks.

I have a great story about a guy I know that had to get married after a trip to the drive-in, but I won't go into it here in detail. But, now that I think of it, the movie he said they were "watching" may have been "Walking Tall".

H m m...

swiss family

to my cousin "DEER DAVE" why is it exactly that you feel it is your responsibility to comment on all of MY posts... are you obsessed with me, do you admire me you want to be me don't you.. well, that aint'a gonna happen.. there is only one swiss family.. and there are many wannabe"s like you.. so please stick with the topic at hand, and leave me alone.. i will start reporting you if i have to, which i hate to turn in family and all, but i would, and we all would like to hear your opinions about the topic at hand, not on your opinions of me.. we all deep down know that you really love me, and secretly wish you were me, but thats never gonna happen cousin! R.O.T.F.L.A,S.A.I.P.O.C.W.I.A.S.A.D.

David Deerest.

I remember going to see Swiss Family Robinson at the drive in years and years ago.

I hated that movie.

To my darling swiss...
Oh, please, don't report me!
BTW~ROTFLMAO. Seriously, that was hilarious.

Looooooooooove yooooooooooou........