Cottage View Drive-In owner unsure of theater's futureThe iconic, red roadside sign at the 45-year-old drive-in movie theater went dark after the theater showed its final films of the season last weekend, ushering in another winter of guessing whether the summer past was the theater’s last.
Are credits about to roll on the Cottage View Drive-In?
The iconic, red roadside sign at the 45-year-old drive-in movie theater went dark Saturday after the theater showed its final films of the season last weekend, ushering in another winter of guessing whether the summer past was the theater’s last.
Development deals have nearly spelled the end of the Cottage View twice in the past five years, and discussions this summer between drive-in owner Gerry Herringer and a commercial real estate developer whom he declined to identify have cast serious doubts on the theater’s existence beyond 2011.
But as the Cottage View marked the close of yet another season in its long-but-tenuous existence, Herringer expressed less optimism the drive-in acreage would be sold— perhaps granting another reprieve for fans of the disappearing drive-ins.
“There’s an old saying that goes, ‘Time kills deals,’” Herringer said recently when asked about ongoing negotiations with developers. Later, he added: “I was hopeful [a deal would be done], but that’s kind of tempered since.”
In 2007, a Minneapolis developer’s proposal for a Walmart-anchored shopping center advanced as far as formal proposals to the Cottage Grove Economic Development Authority before petering out as the economy faltered. Herringer said the continued recession has likely extended the Cottage View’s lifespan – though he and city officials continue to seek buyers for the drive-in parcel perched near U.S. Highway 61 and county Highway 19.
Developing the Cottage View site is no longer the city’s top commercial development priority, Mayor Myron Bailey said last week. The priority now is attracting tenants for vacant retail spaces, he said, but luring developers is still very much on city officials’ radars.
“The city would not stop it [from being developed],” Bailey said. “If there’s a development use there — it’s already guided for that — we would work with them and move that forward.”
Whether the drive-in opens for a 46th season in 2012 depends on when — and if — the Cottage View property is sold, Herringer said. He will talk with Mann Theatres, the company that runs daily operations of the theater, in March to decide whether to re-open the theater.
“If it looks like things are clear in March I guess we’d have a drive-in season,” Herringer said. “If something happens between now and then we’d have to make some decisions.”
The Cottage View is among few remaining drive-in theaters in the region. It was considered for inclusion on a state list of endangered historical sites last year.
The possibility of the drive-in’s closure bothered some movie buffs who showed up for Cottage View’s last 2011 screening on Saturday.
“I hope not,” said Jeff Barton, who said he traveled from his home in Minnetonka to take in the Cottage View for the first time. He doesn’t want drive-ins disappear. “It’d be nice if they kept a couple of them.”
Christina Kaiser of St. Paul Park said she enjoys the drive-in experience.
“I like it because you’re getting to see two or three movies for the price of one,” she said.