Iron City Drive-In

Seth Mares and his son Jacob, 9, stand near the Rambler station wagon that houses the electronic components for Iron City Drive-In, an outdoor movie theater Mares created at his Colfax County farm.

SCHUYLER — There’s something nostalgic about Seth Mares’ Colfax County farm.

Beyond the tall oak trees, between fields of standing corn, vehicles from decades long passed sit in neat rows.

But the classic car collection isn’t the only thing that takes visitors to the rural Schuyler residence back to their childhoods.

What’s inside an older Rambler station wagon strategically positioned on the south side of a white corn crib also plays a large role in recreating these youthful feelings.

That’s where Mares stores the electronic components that run Iron City Drive-In, an outdoor movie theater he created on the property two summers ago.

The hobby and semi-secret tourist attraction stems from a 2006 trip to Neligh, where Mares caught a double feature at one of the state’s few remaining — or perhaps the last — commercial drive-in theaters.

This experience stuck with Mares, resurfacing five years later when he saw an advertisement for a projector and canvass screen made for backyard viewing.

After purchasing a projector on eBay, Mares began creating his own version of a rural theater.

There are no restrooms or concessions, and attendees aren’t charged an admission fee. People just show up, typically around 10 carloads of them on movie nights, to watch whatever films Mares decides to showcase that evening.

The original projector has been upgraded, and a wireless Internet connection allows Mares to play films using a laptop computer, smartphone or DVDs. Iron City also features original drive-in speakers — modified with the interior components of marine speakers — but they’re mostly for show now that a modern outdoor sound system is in place.

Mares also has an FM transmitter that will allow moviegoers to listen using their car stereos once he finds time to install it.

“My main priority is out in the field,” said Mares, who moved to the farm in 2005.

But that doesn’t mean other improvements haven’t been made.

Last summer, Mares and a friend, who happens to be a carpenter, added on to the corn crib to square off the screen, allowing the entire picture to be seen. The additions were reattached about three weeks ago after a spring storm knocked them to the ground.

Mares called his current set-up “bare bones.” “But it’s still a lot of fun,” he said.

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“It gets better every summer because I keep getting more ideas,” Mares added.

The 35-feet-wide screen usually displays movies for Mares, his 9-year-old son Jacob, and friends and family members who live nearby.

While his personal collection contains mainly films from the ’80s and ’90s, Mares admits children’s movies often end up on the playlist.

“Animated movies on this big screen are awesome, too,” said Mares, who remembers watching “Superman” at the Schuyler drive-in during its last season of operation.

That’s the experience he hopes to share with others.

“It’s something new and completely awesome for the kids,” he said.

Iron City Drive-In featured “Back to the Future” parts I and II last weekend as part of a back-to-school theme, and Mares plans to host a “Star Wars” night later this summer. Other plans include a showing of “American Graffiti” when attendees are encouraged to drive their classic cars, similar to an event he held two years ago.

Mares also has a light-up marquee that will be added to the property to direct vehicles toward the screen on movie night — and out of the yard.

Although he just started promoting movies to the public through a Facebook page about a month ago, families from Columbus, Fremont and other locations already have stopped by.

“It’s been great to let people come out and share this with them,” he said.

Mares said he has been surprised by the turnout, particularly since online notice is only given a day, or a few hours, in advance.

Although the creator of Iron City Drive-In likely best describes why people are willing to drive for miles to view a movie on the side of an old corn crib.

“Watching a movie outside under the stars is an experience like nothing else,” Mares said.

For show times and other information on Iron City Drive-In, check out the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/IronCityDriveIn.

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Tyler Ellyson is editor of The Columbus Telegram.

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