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A Night at the Drive-In

A Night at the Drive-In

  • "A Night at the Drive-In" originally appeared in the May 2024 "Weekender" issue of COMO Magazine.
Night At The Drive In

Moberly’s B&B Theaters provides a nostalgic way to enjoy films on the big screen.

Denell Stein can remember being loaded into the family car to Moberly to see a movie at B&B Theaters Drive-In. He recalls being in his pajamas, getting snacks, and enjoying some quality family time.  

“My first memory is my mother, I think was around three years old, dragging me to the women’s room at the drive-in,” Stein said.  

Stein is a lifetime Moberly resident and is the manager of B&B Theaters. He grew up at the drive-in, spending countless hours there as a teen both working and hanging out with friends.

“I remember coming here with my parents watching all kinds of movies, like What’s New Pussycat, all those ’60s movies,” he went on. “When I was in high school, I would come in with my girlfriend. They would run these marathons where they get five or six movies that run almost ’til dawn. But we don’t do that anymore.”  

Why the Drive-in

There is something uniquely American that is evoked by idyllic memories at the drive-in. Steph Foley, an avid movie fan and former longtime employee of Ragtag Cinema, also holds fond youthful memories of going to the drive-in.  

“There’s something magical about films being projected on a big screen and the night sky above you. It is very, very summertime and wholesome in a way,” Foley said while talking about summer nights as a teen at the drive-in. “We’d walk around; it was like an adventure but you’re still in this safe little spot.”  

Steph and her friends still take the trip to Moberly to enjoy a sense of freedom that you only feel as a teen. They see the drive-in as an opportunity to indulge in blockbuster films they might not be interested in otherwise. They grab lawn chairs, snacks, and Frisbees to make an evening out of it.  

“We get our lawn chairs and then we’ll set up a little table and put a boombox on it so we can all sit out and listen,” Foley explained. “We always just go to big adventure blockbusters. It’s different from the movie theater where you’re being quiet and you’re a captive audience. It is more of a social hang. You can yell when something exciting happens on the screen, and you’re outside and it’s really loud and it’s just part of the fun.”  

Programming for the drive-in varies from family blockbusters to kitschy drive-in classics like Creature from the Black Lagoon. The programming aims to create an opportunity to continue making memories at the drive-in.  

“We screen retro titles and classic films that maybe wouldn’t have the same appeal if you were going to watch it in an auditorium,” says Paul Farnsworth, executive director of communications and content for B&B Theaters. “There’s sort of a sentimental approach that people take to the drive-in”  

More than just nostalgia, drive-ins offer a more personalized experience. With sound being transmitted on FM radio, moviegoers have more control over their own sensory experience. During COVID, the drive-in saw a revival of sorts since it allowed people to enjoy films without taking health risks.  

“There was a moment there, albeit a brief one, where the drive-ins were the only options that a lot of folks had to go to the movies because they didn’t have to sit next to somebody else,” Farnsworth said while talking about preserving the nostalgic locations.


The original drive-in was built in the early 1950s by the Bills family. The Bills opened Bills Theaters in 1924 in Salisbury, Missouri. In the 1980s the Bills and Bagby families came together to create B&B Theaters.  

“We had the drive-in and there were also two theaters downtown in Moberly. I actually worked there when I was in high school back in the ’97s and ’80s,” Stein recalled.  

As the multiplex cinema became the norm, B&B Theaters in Moberly closed its single-screen cinemas to open theaters with multiple screens.  

“They decided they were going to build a multiplex in ’97,” Stein explained. “They had this land out here by the old drive-in and they were just gonna build a multiplex, but then Bagby said, ‘You know what, if we put a projector in this and you put this building on its side we can run the drive-in as well,’ so they decided to make a theater that has five indoor screens and a drive-in. I don’t think there’s more than a few other theaters with indoor theaters and a drive-in.”  

If drive-ins aren’t your thing, B&B Theater also offers a state-of-the-art multiplex with six screens. The multi-screen cinema was updated to feature all the creature comforts associated with movie theaters these days like updated concession stands and reclining seats.  

“We have a bar so you can enjoy a nice alcoholic beverage while watching a movie but unfortunately you can’t bring drinks outside to the drive-in,” Stein said.  

With a great selection of first-run movies and special programming, there is a film offering sure to entice any movie lover.  

“Here’s sort of the traditional, predictable experience that one has at a movie theater where you go inside you buy your popcorn, you sit down, you watch the movie,” Farnsworth explained. “The drive-in represents, for a lot of folks, a nostalgic quality.”  

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