Metro-East News

7 things you might not know about Belleville’s iconic Skyview Drive-In

The story behind the sign: Skyview Drive-In shares photos, history

Owner Steve Bloomer shares the history of the sign that came to Belleville, IL in 1950. Designed by Kirn Signs, the Skyview Drive-In sign is one of the most recognizable signs in the country.
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Owner Steve Bloomer shares the history of the sign that came to Belleville, IL in 1950. Designed by Kirn Signs, the Skyview Drive-In sign is one of the most recognizable signs in the country.

If you’re tired of Netflix, grab your keys. Skyview Drive-In opens March 17 for its 68th season.

The historic drive-in will kick off spring with Disney’s live-action remake of “Beauty and the Beast.”

While you wait for a night with Belle and her prince under the stars, check out this list of little-known-facts about the historic landmark.

Skyview owner Steve Bloomer and his family will celebrate 100 years in the theater business this year. The Bloomer family opened their first theater in Freeburg in 1917. Skyview opened in 1949. In their heyday, the Bloomer family owned 17 theaters throughout the state. Before owning theaters, the Bloomer men were coal miners in West Frankfort, Skyview owner Steve Bloomer said. The drive-in is the only Bloomer establishment that remains.

Even if you’re a regular at Skyview, you may not know that the drive-in didn’t go digital until 2013. For more than 60 years, employees at the drive-in were trained to project movies on the big screen, a job that required training and skill. Nowadays, Bloomer said he could start and stop a movie from home if he wanted to. Skyview is preserving one of the drive-in’s old projectors. It’s currently under lock and key in a storage room near the snack counter.

How much did it cost to see a movie in 1949? Answer: 60 cents. Today, the cost is $11 for adults. Children 12 and under get in free. For a family of four, “it’s the best deal in town,” Bloomer said. The box office opens at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

The sign is one of the most iconic movie marquees in the country. Designed by Kirn Signs, the rocket ship marquee appeared in 1950, one year after the drive-in opened. It was damaged by a storm in 1955. But very few people know that the last working bulb in the sign burned out three years ago. In the early 80s, Bloomer said, the drive-in turned off the function that made the sign flash. A Belleville sign ordinance outlawed flashing signs. Since then, the drive-in has kept the lights off. The sign would cost thousands of dollars to restore today.

Don’t expect to receive a tiny car speaker if you visit the drive-in. Those were phased out by 2001. If you want to hear the movie, your car radio will double as your speaker now. Pro tip: If you bring a free-standing radio, bring your own batteries. The drive-in uses a digital frequency to broadcast sound for both screens. In the 80s, the drive-in experimented with an AM system, but that didn’t work. In the 90s, they tried an FM system That didn’t work well either, Bloomer said.

The drive-in has always welcomed children. But what you may not know is that the playground was updated last year. A fresh coat of paint made the area inviting again. The concession stand in the middle of the drive-in has received a fresh coat of paint, too. Check out the updates on opening night, March 17.

Old drive-ins don’t always show old films. While it’s nice to see classic films on the big screen, Skyview keeps its lineup fresh with new releases almost every week. In addition to the much-anticipated release of “Beauty and the Beast,” the drive-in will show the latest installment of “Fast and Furious,” “Smurfs” and “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

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