Sandhills Drive In: bringing classics back

Photo of the big screen at Sandhills Drive In located east of Alliance, Nebraska. (Photo courtesy of Sandhills Drive In website)

ALLIANCE, NE – Under the direction of Edison Red Nest III and his family, the Sandhills Drive In, located east of Alliance near the Skyview Golf Course, has brought the silver screen back to life, showing movies to match everyone’s tastes.

The Sandhills Drive In showed its first film on May 13, 1994, Red Nest explained. The opening movie was Jurassic Park.

“They ran it successfully for a very long time,” said Red Nest. “It was 2016 when they closed up. 2019 comes around, and we had heard talk of the drive in being sold. We’re a big movie family. I felt like this is too big of an iconic piece, too big of a thing to just not have it here anymore. Back at that time, there weren’t many drive ins running. Almost every drive in was doing first run, same as theaters. Our business idea was to do second run.”

Red Nest said the decision to focus on second run movies was based in the history of drive ins.

“We wanted to keep it second run for that reason, and out of respect for the movie theater, because we are good friends with them,” Red Nest said. “We don’t want to impede on their business at all. It offers us the ability to show any classic out there. There’s a lot of good movies, there’s a lot of good content out there that people these days, or people in this area may not have seen or heard of. We want to bring back really iconic movies, movies that have big effects on pop culture.”

Red Nest said they purchased the theater in August 2019, and opened in October of 2019.

“It was a good experience to just get our feet wet,” said Red Nest.

With the pandemic, the drive in adapted, serving not just as a drive in theater, but also hosting live and streamed concerts, fundraisers for other local organizations and even hosting a graduation ceremony for Kiddie Kampus in Alliance.

“With drive in concerts, we weren’t really sure if people would come,” Red Nest said. “The first one we did, Garth Brooks, we had over 120 cars out here. People enjoyed it. That was something that had never been done in this area. We were glad to be a part of that.”

One of the events the Sandhills Drive In hosted this year was Fighting for Foster Care to raise money for the Foster Care Closet.

“We were able to raise $800,” said Red Nest. “If you haven’t been to the Foster Care Closet in Scottsbluff, it’s great. The kids get to go in there and pick out their own clothes, their own shoes, their own stuff that’s theirs. To have your own things that are yours, then that’s at least some sort of comfort.”

Red Nest said he has no plans to go digital at the drive in, noting he is collecting 35mm film. He explained that the Sandhills Drive In is one of three drive ins in the state of Nebraska.

“We are one of the last authentic drive ins around,” Red Nest said. “We have speaker poles, we have the ramps, we still have our 35mm. Our speakers are pushed through the original sound system. Everything is still there. I believe we are the only one in the area that still has the working speakers outside.”

People often ask Red Nest how to support their mission, he noted.

“The only way to support us is to come watch a movie with us,” said Red Nest. “Come hang out with us and look at the stars. We have a very good show out here with what we do. We want to keep it real, so we do as much as we can on our own to take care of the drive in. We’re providing a place for people to come and see things they don’t see anywhere, and I’m talking about a real, authentic drive in experience. We want to just keep going. We’re playing a really good wealth of movies.

“Our admission prices are real low, and our concession prices are real low, so you can come out and have dinner,” Red Nest said. “We have almost anything out here to eat. You’re getting a lot of good family experience for a really low price.”


(Story courtesy of Alliance Times)

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