A Fremont couple’s plan to build a drive-in movie theater in northwestern Douglas County got two thumbs up Tuesday from the Douglas County Board.
Jenny and Jeff Karls want to build the outdoor theater — which they’re calling the Quasar — at Nebraska Highway 36 (aka Pawnee Road) and 300th Street. That’s a couple of miles east of U.S. Highway 275, between Valley and Fremont.
They would show first-run movies on weekends from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The Karlses said they may add “throwback Thursday” features, and, if the weather holds, they could show movies in October, too. They’re ready to begin construction this year and hope to open on Memorial Day weekend 2019.
“We’re excited,” Jenny Karls said. The couple have been working for five years to make the theater a reality. It’s a long time coming, they said.
The Quasar will accommodate about 400 cars and feature a 50-by-100-foot screen, a snack bar and permanent and mobile ticket booths. Original plans called for a second screen, but that was nixed after meeting with the neighbors.
It’ll join a shrinking number of drive-ins still active in Nebraska. All the old metropolitan drive-in theaters have closed, but the owners of Falconwood south of Bellevue opened one that shows classic movies a couple of years ago.
The board unanimously approved a special use permit for the new theater on Tuesday, two weeks after the board postponed a vote after hearing from concerned neighbors.
Since then, Jeff Karls met with those neighbors, as well as the county planning director.
Keith Hoffman, whose farm is nearby, met with the Karlses but still isn’t pleased with the plans, he told the board. The added traffic could be a safety hazard, he said, and the notion of the drive-in operating in October, which is harvest season, is problematic for farmers.
“It’s going to be a mess,” he said. “Not only just traffic going by, but what it’s going to do to the roads.”
The Karlses said they planned to continue to work with farmers to alleviate those concerns. If neighbors are worried about a certain day or showtime, Jennifer Karls told the board, the theater can adjust the time or direct traffic to accommodate. Also, they may one day pave 300th Street if the added traffic wears it down. If so, the Karlses will foot that bill.
“Some folks just aren’t going to be totally on board, and that’s OK,” Jeff Karls said after the meeting. “You’re not going to make everyone happy.”