THE WARNER'S DRIVE-IN STORY
A dream behind the screen
THE WARNER'S DRIVE-IN HAS HELD A SPECIAL PLACE IN THE HEART OF THE COMMUNITY IN FRANKLIN, WEST VIRGINIA FOR OVER 70 YEARS. WITH A DEEPLY-ROOTED HISTORY AND DEDICATED BOARD OF MEMBERS TODAY, WE ARE ABLE TO ENJOY A UNIQUE ENTERTAINMENT EXPERIENCE FOR YEARS TO COME.
HISTORY OF WARNER'S DRIVE IN
Charlie Warner and his son Harold opened the Warners Drive-In in Franklin, West Virginia in April of 1952. It quickly became a staple of fun & activity in the community. People of all ages gathered here on weekends throughout the warm summer months to socialize with their neighbors, eat at the popular snack bar & enjoy entertainment from the world beyond this small rural community. The drive-in was particularly popular among the community’s families and youth, who would otherwise have to travel 40 miles one-way to an adjoining state to see a movie.
For many generations, Warner Drive-In provided one of the few opportunities for gathering & entertainment in and around this part of eastern West Virginia & the Potomac Highlands. The Drive-In—an independent, locally-owned small business, operated successfully from 1952 until 2014, when it became a victim of a change occurring throughout the movie theater industry: the conversion from film to digital formats. This created the necessity for expensive new digital projectors, and that was a change many small, independently owned drive-in and community theaters could not afford. From an industry high of 4000 drive-in theaters in the continental U.S., by 2013 there were only 368 operating drive-ins. And one of those that closed was the Warner Drive-In.
Needless to say, this was a significant blow to a community and region that depended on this local institution not just for movie entertainment, but as a place for families and neighbors to gather and socialize on a regular basis. This happened at a time when so many other means of entertainment...the internet, satellite TV & smart phones...tended to be individual, isolating activities...having particular consequences for community interaction in rural West Virginia. Warner Drive-In, a 62-year community institution, was at serious risk of being sold and torn down.
But this community was not willing to let a cherished institution go.
A letter-to-the-editor in the local paper led to a petition with over 200 signatures. A number of social media sites popped up with statements of concern and offers of
money and support. Groups of local citizens came together informally to discuss what to do. Local media picked up the story and a piece was aired on a nearby television station. Finally, in March of 2016, the Historic Warner Drive-In & Cultural Resources Center was formed as a non- profit organization to reopen and preserve the drive-in as a community center for entertainment, arts, and education. The members’ first tasks: lease the property from the current owners and raise the funds to buy a $60,000 digital projector &
start showing movies.
In a remarkable outpouring of community support, within four months of getting
started funds had been donated to purchase and install the digital projector. On
September 9th, 2016, the Center showed its first movie, Finding Dory, to a packed drive-in crowd.
What's next? We will continue our fundraising efforts to enhance our facility and provide community arts offerings.
BOARD DIRECTORS & MEMBERS
Jessica Basagic | Chairman
Jessica lives in Franklin, WV and is the Training and Development Specialist at Pendleton Community Bank. Her great grandfather built the Warner Drive In. She is the Chair of the Snack Bar Committee and serves on the Fundraising Committee in charge of events and the Promotion Committee in charge of Facebook.
Gail Price | Vice Chairman
Gail lives in Franklin, WV and is retired. She worked in Virginia a nd West Virginia Tourism for over 20 years. She is the Chair of the Fundraising Committee in charge of grants and serves on the Gate Committee.
Sarah Burns | Secretary
Sarah lives in Riverton, WV and works in the Operations Department at Pendleton Community Bank. She is an active member for Relay for Life. She is the Chair of the Gate Committee in charge of scheduling and serves on the Snack Bar Committee.
John Connor | Treasurer
John lives in Sugar Grove, WV and works at Pendleton Middle School as a Special Education Teacher. He and his wife Michelle are co-founders of Full Quiver Consulting, LLC. He serves on the Gate Committee in charge of box office reporting and the Fundraising Committee.
Robert Davis, Jr. lives in Sugar Grove, WV and is a Professor at Eastern Mennonite University, Department of Graduate and Professional Studies. He is a member of the Pendleton Community Care Board of Directors and volunteers at the Pendleton County Community Food Bank. Bob is serving on the Gate Committee, Fundraising Committee for grants and the Promotion Committee for sponsors/advertisers.
Michael Deel lives in Franklin, WV and is the AVP - Senior Technology Officer at Pendleton Community Bank. He and his wife Sharon moved from Southwest Virginia in 2021 to pursue new opportunities in Pendleton County. He serves on the Projection Committee.
Katie VanMeter lives in Franklin, WV. She is a homeschool mom of one. She is a property manager for VanMeter Real Estate and Rentals, Sugar Opal Suites, and The Historic McCoy House Bed and Breakfast in Pendleton County. She is also a Human Resources Specialist for VRER Construction. She also works in public relations. This busy bee serves the drive-in wherever she is needed. She happily spends time being part of the weekend clean-up crew during open season and is joining the gate committee in the upcoming season.
Kristin Dingess lives in Franklin, WV and is the Staff Supervisor for CNIC in Naval District Washington. She is the Chair of the Pendleton County Chamber Board and Pendleton CVB Board. She is also the Chair of the Pendleton County EDA. She serves on the Promotion Committee in charge of Instagram and Twitter and the Gate Committee.
Trent Reid lives in Franklin, WV and worked as a manager for Cinemark in the '90s, doing 35mm projection. He is the Treasurer with the Friends of the Library, volunteer for Pendleton Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), and training in the Certified Nursing Assistant program at Pendleton Manor. He serves on the Projection Committee.
J. King Seegar, III lives in Franklin, WV and is the Medical Director and Pediatrician at Pendleton Community Care. He is also Chair of Experience Learning, an outdoor learning center located on Spruce Knob. He serves on the Projection Committee, Gate Committee and Maintenance Committee.
Jason Smith lives in Brandywine, WV and is the Human Resource Director at Pendleton Manor Nursing Facility. He has been in several community plays at the Smith Creek Playhouse. He serves on the Projection Committee.
Hal Stickley lives in Franklin, WV and is a retired US Army Lieutenant Colonel ad worked for Dominion Energy for 20 years. He is Chair of the Maintenance Committee and serves on the Snack Bar and Gate Committees.
Ammie Ruddle, 40, of Franklin, WV. Ammie married into the Ruddle family in 2015 and moved to Pendleton County two years ago. Ammie's background is divided into two different, yet equally important passions. Her first passion is theatre and performance. She has a BA in Theatre, as well as over 24 years of stage and event experience. While the second is working with families helping them find resources to assist with basic needs as well as achieving personal growth and goals, in addition to promoting advocacy skills. Ammie is excited to be a part of the Warners Drive-In Board and combine both her passions to help ensure the progress, safety, and experience of WDI.