When May’s bout of wicked weather rampaged across the metro, images of the devastation of Moore overshadowed — and rightly so — the comparatively minor destruction in Oklahoma City. After heavy winds calmed and the flooding subsided, many area businesses found themselves having to pick up their own pieces.
Instead of shutting its doors, however, longtime owner and operator Lindy Shanbour chose to rebuild.
“I opened this drive-in up on July 3, 1968 — that’s 45 years. It’s my life,” he said. “The people I’ve seen grow up here, it’s a memory that’ll never go away. It’s what keeps me going. I could sit here all day and tell you about all the memories I have in this theater. No way in the world would I trade them for anything.”
It’s this passion for films and the joy they bring that Shanbour said are his main impetus for trying to re-open the Winchester before the end of the summer movie season, especially this season, which he said is filled with “perfect” drive-in fare.“We had the best run of movies we’ve ever had,” he said. “I was running Fast & Furious 6 and Iron Man 3 as a double feature, and it was doing a tremendous amount of business. ... And then the storm happened.”
After the theater took a direct hit, he had to cancel two movies he already had booked: Man of Steel and The Lone Ranger.
“And they’re big-time pictures that would have done a lot of business,” Shanbour said. “They’re not small.”
The storm ripped through the Winchester, tearing holes in the movie screen and destroying the roof, the air conditioning units and coolers, part of the concession stand and the surrounding fence, as well as blowing Shanbour’s office “clean out.”
But what really hurt the Winchester, he said, was the flooding of its projection booth, which damaged an $80,000 digital projector that was all of 2 weeks old.“I can’t show movies without a projector,” Shanbour said. “It’s from Germany, so [a new one] takes a while to get here. But when it gets installed, the rest of the repairs should only take about two weeks to a month.”
As he waits, the only thing to do in the meantime is continue to promise patrons that the Winchester’s waving cowboy marquee will light up once more — it will take time and patience.
Fans of the theater have inundated Shanbour with phone calls and emails begging him to keep it open, even going as far to offer donations, but he said he doesn’t want or need any of that. He built the place, said Shanbour, and wants to rebuild it himself.
are going to open this theater back up before the end of summer,” he
said. “But before I open it up, it’s got to be right. I’m not going to
do it halfway. I’m not going to open it just so I can get business. It’s
going to be the way I want it, and I want it done right. I owe it to my
Hey! Read This:
• Fast & Furious 6 film review
• Iron Man 3 film review
• Moore will be more: Dispatches from the May 20 tornado