Many of us remember going to the drive-in theater as a teenager. It was back in a time when we always asked the guy with the largest trunk to smuggle the rest of us in past the ticket gate. Inside, it was a fiesta – sodas, popcorn, hot dogs, nachos, socializing, and a couple of great movies to watch while we sat in, or on, our car.
While cruise nights are still a regular event, we’ve slowly watched this small slice of Americana slip away as more and more drive-in theaters are shutting down to make room for another strip mall or condominium complex. It’s a sad sight to see an old screen still standing lone and tall, wavering in the wind having shown its last film months before, while the remnants of audio speakers still hang from weathered poles with wires dangling. Empty soda cups rock back and forth in the breeze, and weeds sprout where cars were once parked. The echo from the concession stand is long gone, as empty popcorn boxes litter the surrounding area. Sigh.
Throwback Thursdays was a huge success, and the turnout was tremendous. The results make the effort completely worth it for Chris and Gabe, and the passion truly shows.
But all is not lost entirely for a group of cruisers with pre-1980 street rods, musclecars, and trucks. They can once again enjoy the car culture we all miss so much thanks to Chris Gibbany and her Throwback Thursdays – the go-to event for cruisers in Marshall, Arkansas. With some phone calls and her marketing and promotion expertise, the Kenda Drive-In is once again opening up on the last Thursday of the month for classic car camaraderie and the drive-in movie experience this summer. Chris has earned a Leading Ladies acknowledgment for her efforts.
The Kenda Drive-In has been around for 50 years, and they open up on the last Thursday of each month for the summer just for Throwback Thursdays.
Throwback Thursdays is the brainchild of Gabe and Chris Gibbany, who wanted to unite hot rodders and classic movies together at, where else, the drive-in movie theater. They came up with the idea in late 2015 and carried out in 2016. They’re back again this year with a new set of movies, starting with The Cannonball Run on Thursday, March 30.
There are no biases here, whether you're into trucks, cars, bikes, Chevy, Ford, or Mopar, you're welcome to come by, but Chris explicitly states: Pre-1980 only, no exceptions.
We featured Chris’ Dodge Charger as part of our Street Feature series, and found out about Throwback Thrusdays after talking with her. Chris said, “In 2015, my husband Gabe and I came up with the idea for Throwback Thusdays. Over the course of the winter I was in constant communication with the owners of the Kenda Drive-In. It is located in a small town in Marshall that is part of beautiful rural Searcy County Arkansas. The Drive-In was built 50 years ago by Kenda’s parents, who put their daughter’s name on the marquee.”
The movies are running the last Thursday of each month from March until July. With the movie starting “when it gets dark”, so later in the year it could start a little later, it gives cruisers time to visit, share stories, listen to killer tunes, and visit the concession stand with “great food at 1980s prices.”
The mix of vehicles that shows up doesn't have any boundaries, we love it.
Each Throwback Thursday has giveaways and goody bags, and the event is sponsored by Gold Eagle: makers of Sta-bil, 104+, HEET, and 303 Automotive Products. Chris said, “Last year Gold Eagle supplied the 20 car owners who had attended the most movie nights with over $100 each worth of automotive products and the applicators to apply them!”
Chris said she spends the winter months contacting suppliers for the goody bags, and then spends time customizing the contents by asking people what they might need.
Throwback Thursdays is just five fun nights during the summer, but it is a huge undertaking for just one person to organize. Chris picks the movies and they have to be on DVD, so the Kenda Drive-In buys the DVD and shows the movie, opening up the concession stand at “1980s” prices. Future movies for the rest of the summer will be the last Thursday of each month, and should be listed on the Kenda Drive-In website soon.
Chris will soon embark on a 1,000 mile trip on The Long Road to the 18th annual Smokeout in North Carolina. She’ll be making the trip on her rigid hardtail 1956 Harley Panhead chopper that she designed built with Gabe.
Why She Does It – A True Passion
After seeing everything that goes into this, all the effort and contacts made with vendors to supply products and certificates, you might wonder, “what’s in it for Chris and Gabe?” So we asked that question, because we know it must take a lot of work and effort, as well as time.
Chris said, “We get no compensation whatsoever, so it is totally 100 percent volunteer work. It does take a LOT of time as I work all winter asking for donations for goody bag items and door prizes. I am AMAZED at some of the generosity from the companies when they hear what we are doing, and how cool that they think that idea is!”
When we promoted the Lunati Bootlegger Cam contest in 2015, we asked people to submit their best photo and why they needed a Bootlegger camshaft. This was the picture (left) that Chris and Gabe Gibbany sent to us, and we loved it. On the right, just a couple Bootlegger gifts to go along with some good liquor.
Chris continued, “The love that my husband and I have for the industry, the lifestyle and of course for vintage iron is what keeps the passion burning. Almost everything I have ever done has been without ‘pay’, from starting the local Camaro Club, to being the Worldwide Camaro Club and Chevy Classics Arkansas Representative for 12 years, to hosting bike nights, etc.”
We often run across people who go the extra effort, all for the enjoyment of others and to keep the spirit alive. This is just another example of someone taking the bull by the horns and creating something that, we hope, will catch on in other cities.
“I feel that if you do things for the right reasons, you can’t lose,” Chris said.
This just goes to show you that you don’t have to have anything but a good idea to get people together, and pretty soon others will follow and join in on the festivities. We commend Chris and Gabe for reaching out and finding a cool way to get people together, to enjoy a drive-in movie – and for keeping the hot rodding spirit alive. This is why Chris Gibbany is a leading lady in our hobby.