Originally created 07/31/05

Families appreciate fellowship, movies at Big Mo



Teresa Frazier probably could have found a closer theater to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Batman Begins on July 23.

The Augusta resident said she really didn't mind the 45-minute drive to The Big Mo drive-in for a double feature.

"We usually meet my sister-in-law and her family. It's really a big family thing for us," said Ms. Frazier as she sat in a chair in the back of her truck waiting for the feature to begin.

Movies start at 9 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, but the gates open at 7:30 p.m. Most people try to arrive early.

"Last year, we had 13 sellouts. We had to turn people away," said Lisa Boaz, who, along with her husband, Richard, has owned and operated the theater since 1999.

Once a popular destination, drive-ins dwindled over the past few decades.

"There are about 500 screens and about 400 drive-ins in the country," Mrs. Boaz said.

The Big Mo has enough space for about 270 cars. The couple added an extra row for cars this year and plans to open another screen with space for more cars by September. With a second screen, that means two double features can play a night, she said.

For Labor Day weekend, they plan to show two triple features.

The drive-in usually is open from March to November, depending on what movies are out, Mrs. Boaz said. This season began March 11 because the movie Robots had just been released. When the theater closes for the season depends on the weather and what movies are in release, she said.

The Boazes live in Irmo, S.C., where Mr. Boaz is a law librarian and Mrs. Boaz is a stay-at-home mom to four children.

They became interested in drive-in theaters in the early 1990s while living in West Virginia.

Mr. Boaz heard about The Big Mo while looking at an old drive-in in Aiken. The woman who owned the Monetta drive-in had just accepted an offer when Mr. Boaz inquired about it. Fortunately for the Boazes, the deal fell through.

The Big Mo was a mess when they first purchased it.

"The screen had big holes in it, and there were 30-foot-tall pine trees," Mrs. Boaz said. "Richard cut all those down with a chain saw."

Located on U.S. Highway 1, the theatre has become a popular spot for families.

With more than an hour's wait from the time the gates open and the feature begins, many families spread out blankets and bring their own refreshments or purchase snacks from the concession stand.

Children played with flying discs and on the swing set while waiting to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Batman Begins.

Wendy Frazier, no relation to Teresa Frazier, said it's a "good family outing that's inexpensive."

Last June, Wendy's daughter, Hannah, had her 14th birthday party at the drive-in.

"I just liked it. It's something you don't see other places," said Hannah, who attends Lexington High School.

Thomas and Angie Drake brought their friends Patrick Krohn and Marcy Vernon, along with six children, to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Last year, Mrs. Drake brought along her 13-year-old brother.

"He thought it was the greatest thing," she said.

They arrived late for Shrek 2 last summer, parked their car outside the theater, paid their admission and sat on a blanket to watch the film.

Admission to The Big Mo is $5 for ages 12 and older, $2 for children 4-11 and no charge for children younger than 4.

Film titles change weekly and are usually not known by the Boazes until a few days before the Friday showing.

Upcoming films include Fantastic Four, Herbie: Fully Loaded and Dukes of Hazzard.

Titles are updated on the drive-ins Web site, www.thebigmo.com, or on a recorded message at (803) 685-7949.

Reach Charmain Z. Brackett at czbrackett@hotmail.com.

the Big Mo

Address: U.S. Highway 1, Monetta, S.C.hours: 7:30 p.m. gates open, 9 p.m. first feature, Friday-Sunday

Contact: www.thebigmo.com; (803) 685-7949