Barbara Faulkner, the general manager at the Moonlite Theatre, counts the evening receipts inside the ticket booth. She said that the Moonlite drive-in, built in 1948, has survived the advent of television, video, the DVD, and even the construction of the interstate highway that put it off the beaten path.

But what has her worried these days is the recession. “People are hurting because there are no jobs and gas prices are high. Going to the movies is a luxury, so in turn we are cutting it real close,” she says. “We have damage to our sign and screen from the last bad storm but right now there’s no money for repairs.”

She explains that the theater makes almost no money from ticket sales. The concession stand accounts for their small profit. “We don’t show ‘R’-rated movies because we need families to come here. It’s the young kids who want the candy. If they aren’t allowed in, we make much less. Half of the staff is volunteers because they love it here. Gosh, if we had to pay everybody, we’d be dark by now.”

 

Dale Maharidge and Michael S. Williamson's latest book is Someplace Like America: Tales From the New Great Depression, published this year by the University of California Press.