Newberg's Drive-In Keeps Americana Alive

How the historic 99W Drive-In keeps an all-American dream flickering for the next generation of movie lovers.

By Katie Gourley September 3, 2013 Published in the September 2013 issue of Portland Monthly

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Image: Leah Nash

On any given summertime Friday, Saturday, or Sunday night, as many as 275 cars fill the lot of the 99W Drive-In. Adults, kids, and young couples stretch their legs in (or on top of) their vehicles and tune their car radios to the FM sound that unites them with the action on screen. 

“People are looking for the heart and soul of America,” says owner Brian Francis, 54, whose grandfather JT built the theater 60 years ago, “or at least what it was.” 

From late March to October, the original 1953 35 mm projector casts Hollywood hits onto a 69-by-30-foot screen. Today, only four drive-ins operate in Oregon. Hollywood’s trend toward superhero and animated movies, however, has contributed to surging popularity for this old-time summer family activity. Francis notes that the theater often turns away 200 cars on July and August evenings. 

“It’s not just a showtime, it’s a pastime,” he says. “Like baseball was.”

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