Maryville drive-in theater facing possible closure by new development

MARYVILLE (WATE) – The owners of a drive-in movie theater in Maryville say they could be forced to close because of a proposed new development.

The Parkway Drive-In is on Lamar Alexander Parkway, and plans are being put in place to build a new Walmart nearby. The owner of the drive-in says that will add too much light pollution for the theater to stay open.

“There’s people that come out of state and they’re like, ‘Well, we haven’t been to a drive-in. There isn’t one in our state. We wanted to check this one out,'” said Jennifer Sanders.

Jennifer Sanders
Jennifer Sanders

Previous story: Maryville drive-in theater gets new digital projector

Sanders works the ticket booth at the Parkway Drive-In. She says with the Walmart nearby, there is no hope for the drive-in to operate as it has been.

“Their 42-foot light poles will be pollution, light pollution, and it’ll bleach out the screen and the drive-in will be closed down. It just won’t work, the two together,” she said.

The theater’s owner, Doug Freeman, says he is willing to fight to keep the piece of nostalgia open.

“I just think the drive-in theater is too great a treasure to just say maybe this won’t affect it. It will affect it. It will greatly affect it,” he said.

Doug Freeman
Doug Freeman

Freeman took his concerns to the Maryville Board of Zoning Appeals. City leaders say the development planning is still in the very early stages.

“We want to hang on to our nostalgia. At the same time we want to rise up to meet the growth so our children can have jobs and the community can progress,” said City Manager Greg McClain.

Sanders started an online petition that in just a few days gained nearly 8,000 signatures. She also created a Facebook page that is also adding followers quickly.

More: Petition to save the Parkway Drive-In

Many say their community does not need another Walmart. There are two other Walmart stores located within seven miles of the drive-in.

Sanders and Freeman say they would be happy if the development would relocate, but they are open to finding a solution that can keep both places in business.

“Some kind of happy medium for both parties. I understand you got to develop. You got to grow, but the drive-in has been there forever. It’s been a landmark and you don’t want to take that away,” said Sanders.

City leaders say they do not want to lose the drive-in, but that they have to look at what is best for the area in the long run.

“As someone who enjoyed growing up and spending time in the theater, it’s a sad thing to see that change, but it is the very nature of our community. Change is inevitable,” said McClain.

He says Walmart is still doing due diligence to determine if the company will choose to relocate there. They have not yet closed on the property near the drive-in.

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