(Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the May edition of Living Well Magazine.)
It was 1966 and Kenda Dearing was a toddler when her parents opened Kenda Drive-In in Marshall.
Kenneth and Marilyn Sanders named the outdoor movie theater after their baby girl, which was a family tradition of sorts. In 1947, grandpa Howard Sanders opened Ken Theater, named for his son Kenneth.
The movie business is in their blood.
“That is all I have ever known. Their house is inside the drive-in, in the corner, so I was essentially raised in the drive-in and I went to the movie every night. I stayed with mom at the box office. It was my playground. I ran concessions from the time I was 10 or 11. We are as true of a family business as you can get. There were three of us kids and we all worked,” said Kenda.
Kenneth and Marilyn eventually took over the Ken Theater which burned down in 1968. The Sanders decided not to rebuild, but instead invested more in the drive-in which has stayed in the family for decades — they operated it for nearly 40 years.
Drive-ins were a popular family attraction at that time and many thrived until the 1980s, when the industry was decimated by the widespread use of home entertainment systems.
Today, only 323 drive-ins remain nationwide, according to a database on www.drive-ins.com, which tracks theaters. Three of those are housed in Arkansas; the other two are the 112 Drive-in Movie Theater in Fayetteville; and Stone Drive-In Theatre in Mountain View.
Kenda and her husband Todd took over the business in 2003 and it has grown each year. Kenda says social media has been a wonderful…
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