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Drive in

The marquee at the Kings Drive-In Theatre. (Gary Feinstein/The Sentinel)

HANFORD — If nostalgia made money, Kings Drive-In Theatre owner Geraldine Graff would be rolling in cash.

But nostalgia about the longtime landmark doesn’t fix the broken fences, the trashed restrooms, the outdated projector or the peeling paint. Nostalgia doesn’t stop vandals from tagging the walls and ripping off doors. Nostalgia can’t compete with stadium seating, surround sound and air conditioning.

With the old theater failing to bring in enough money to pay for security and other improvements, Graff — who runs the business with her granddaughter — is on the verge of ending a long-running chapter in Kings County history.

The last doubleheader of the summer season — “Taken 2” and “Pitch Perfect” — showed Sunday night in what could be the aged projector’s final flickerings.

The outdoor movie house normally closes in the winter. This time it could be for good.

“I’m working there every night,” Graff said. “I’m getting tired. I haven’t really decided what I’m going to do.”

There have been outside efforts to rescue the drive-in, but they appear to be going nowhere.

Save the Kings Drive In Theater, a Facebook page created last month by Hanford entrepreneur Francisco Ramirez, raised only $200 for improvements despite 4,810 likes and hundreds of favorable comments.

“I am truly sad to announce that our efforts didn’t materialize,” Ramirez posted on Oct. 24. “I hope if you’re reading this, start organizing for your community, for your city, for your town and try as hard as you can to save what’s left of family values, of family entertainment.”

Many wrote that the theater’s time has come and gone.

“[People would] rather be in a theater with temperature control, no bugs, HD screens, IMAX screens and 3D,” said Lemoore resident Justine Bunker. “It’s a nice thought, but in the end, nothing can be done to save it.”

“Regardless of how many of us have fond memories of the place, if the owner isn’t interested, there’s not much anyone can do,” said local resident Amy Wix.

“I’m not taking my kids to a place where a bunch of drunk teens are going to ruin our time,” wrote Joe Contente. “I’d rather pay $100 at the movie theater.”

“I think somebody’s going to tear it down and build a gas station there,” Ramirez said in an interview with The Sentinel.

Graff said she’s facing some hard economic realities, changing preferences and a completely different clientele compared to 30 years ago.

Back then, there were security guards walking around to keep people in line. Now there’s not enough revenue to pay them, she said.

The most likely scenario is that she’ll sell to a developer. In 2008, somebody offered $2.5 million for the strategically placed site at Lacey Boulevard and 14th Avenue. Thomas Graff, Geraldine Graff’s late husband, almost accepted.

There are other intriguing options, according to Danny Humason, owner of the Hanford Fox Theatre.

It might be used as a concert venue or a flea market, he said.

But even Humason believes it’ll be torn down.

And it won’t be nostalgia paying the bills.

“It’s kind of a cool thing that we were one of the last towns to actually have one,” Humason said.

The reporter can be reached at 583-2432 or snidever@HanfordSentinel.com.

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