A twin-screen Bear Drive-In is expected to open this month behind the Lowe’s in Bear.
Bob Weir, who is the technical director at the Playhouse on Rodney Square and has a side business doing drive-in movies with inflatable screens, plans to use cargo containers to create his facility in a 5-acre field on Christiana-Bear Road.
Containers will be stacked to create a screen facing Christiana Bear, also known as Route 7, and another facing the direction of Route 1. The projection booth and concession stand also will be made of cargo containers.
“We’re making it completely portable,” Weir said Monday night.
He broke the news of the new drive-in on his Facebook page last week.
“It is official! The permits have been approved and we are moving forward! I am proud to announce that I will be opening a fully functional twin Drive-In movie theatre!” he said.
Weir said he meant the post to alert his friends that he’s completed the county permit process.
But friends convinced him to make the post public and by Monday, it had 4,300 shares, which surprised Weir.
The theater site now boasts an electric sign that says “Open soon” in the middle of a grassy field.
The life-long theater and movie buff is hoping everything will fall into place for the first shows by the end of July, maybe sooner. He plans to stay open through October.
The Bear Drive-In is expected to show mostly first-run movies with a few “throw-back” classics.
Patrons will drive into the field, which will be cut to remain grassy, and listen to the shows through their radios. Tickets will be $15 per person and will include a large popcorn and a soda, partly to keep the concession stand going. There will be discounts for children and seniors.
Weir said he expects most people to bring in pizzas, hamburgers and other dinner food, so the concession stand will sell popcorn, soda and packaged snacks rather than making food there.
The containers will start arriving this week, Weir said.
“We have to put an actual screen surface on the side of the cargo containers, and I don’t know how long that’s going to take me,” he said. It’s also the biggest challenge of the facility because of the high cost of lumber right now and “because of how stinking hot it is.”
He hopes it will only take about two weeks to finish.
The Historic Movie Theaters of Delaware Facebook page praised the news of a new theater.
“This is not only amazing news, it also is historic on two fronts,” the Facebook site said. “When it opens, the Bear Drive-Inn will be the first Delaware movie theater to be located in Bear, and the first two-screen drive-in in the state’s history.”
Later, the writer issued a clarification, saying someone said that the Delmar Drive-In might have had two screens at one point, but the writer couldn’t immediately confirm it.
The Bear Drive-in will also, according to the historic theater site, be:
- The state’s 152nd movie theater.
- 16th drive-in (the first in operation since 2008).
- First new drive-in since 1987
- Second new movie theater to open in less than a year
- First new movie theater to open in New Castle County in seven years
- The state’s only operating drive-in.
Weir is no stranger to theaters. He worked in projection booths as a teen in a Texas movie theater and a drive-in before moving to Delaware. As soon as he moved to the First State, he began working in the State Theater in Newark.
He opened the Chestnut Hill Cinema Cafe, which sold food, wine and beer to be consumed during movies, about 25 years ago.
“I’ve been wanted to do a drive-in theater for about 10 years,” he said. When he heard the Felton Drive-In was going to close, he tried to talk its owners into selling to him, but they had plans to sell to someone else.
In the meantime, Weir started his own side hustle, showing movies on inflatable screens. He’s done drive-ins for the Delaware Art Museum’s series and The Grand’s shows in Bellevue Park. He also ran Theatre N in the Nemours Building for a while.
Weir ended up on Christiana-Bear road after setting his sights on the old Avon plant in Newark. When he called the real estate number posted on the property, the Reybold agent told him the property was heading elsewhere.
Too bad, Weir said, and started thanking him for his time. But the agent stopped him.
“Wait a minute,” the agent said. “Keep going.”
“What do you mean keep going,” Weir asked.
“What do you need, if you want to do this?” the agent said.
“About 5 or 6 acres, completely clear,” Weir said. “Then I could do about 300 cars.”
The agent pointed him toward the Christiana Bear property.
The site is empty now, although Reybold may want to develop it in a few years.
“I’ve been wanting to do this for a very long time,” Weir said. “COVID and everything created an opportunity because so many things have changed and so many things are different.”
Even so, he has one more long-term goal.
“We’ll do this as long as we’re permitted to do it through the county and as far as the development of the property allows,” he said. “Once we show this is a viable thing, we’re going to look for a permanent location.”
Betsy Price is a Wilmington freelance writer who has 40 years of experience.
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