Property upgrades, new offerings add to appeal of McHenry Outdoor this season
LAKEMOOR -- Nothing screams summer like taking in a movie on a giant screen under the stars. And at the McHenry Outdoor Theater -- which launches its open-seven-days-a-week season with "Top Gun: Maverick" on Memorial Day Weekend -- the experience just keeps getting better.
Along with making numerous improvements to the grounds and concession area, theater owner Scott Dehn invested about $40,000 this spring on refurbishing the six-story-high, 100-foot-wide screen at the southeast corner of Chapel Hill and Lincoln roads. Another $10,000 went into new lighting and lenses for the digital projector.
And the result? It's a movie-lover's dream.
"It's gorgeous," Dehn said. "I never thought we would have a clearer, brighter picture. But we do. It's beautiful."
And it's just in time for the return of a stellar crop of first-run features after a pandemic-prompted dearth of new films over the last couple of years. Starting this Friday, May 27, along with the highly anticipated "Top Gun" reboot, Dehn also will show "Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore."
Other first-run blockbusters scheduled for the Outdoor this summer include "Jurassic World Dominion," "Minions: The Rise of Gru" and "DC League of Super-Pets," to name a few.
Adding to the experience for adults will be the addition of the Skyline Tap and Gaming area in the concession building's north side. Beer and wine will be available for purchase until intermission. Those at the wheel on entering the grounds will receive a hand stamp indicating they are the designated driver for the night, and will not be served, Dehn said.
"We had many meetings with the Lakemoor village administrator to build in safety standards before obtaining the liquor license," Dehn said. "All servers will be Basset-trained and certified."
Another change for visitors to enjoy is the addition of a small merchandise shop featuring T-shirts, sweatshirts, blankets, Frisbees, hats and can koozies, with prices ranging from $6 for a koozie to $45 for a sweatshirt. Those looking to view the film from the lap of luxury can rent an inflatable lounger for $7, with a $10 deposit.
New concession items have been added as well, including chicken sandwiches and soft serve ice cream, along with cappuccino and hot chocolate for those brisk summer nights.
Children and adults will appreciate new movie-themed artwork destined for the area under the screen as well as around the projector and concession buildings. Indeed, special surprises are in store all summer long.
"Any time we're showing an animated or family-friendly movie, we'll have a bounce house on the grounds as well as face painting," Dehn said. "We're also scheduling some bands to come out and play in the evenings before the movies start, and looking into doing more virtual concerts like we did with Bon Jovi last summer."
"It's going to be a great season," he continued. "The atmosphere here is kind of like a big block party where there also happen to be movies playing. Plus, it's generational. You have grandpa and grandma with the grandkids -- and they've all grown up here. There's not many places where you can say that anymore."
The McHenry Outdoor opened as the Sky-line Drive In in July 1951. The property, including an additional 9 acres Dehn purchased to the east of the parking area, was annexed to Lakemoor in 2020.
Admission this season is $12 per adult, $6 for military and seniors as well as children ages 3 to 11, and free for those younger than 3. A $12-per-carload special begins May 31 and continues each Tuesday night thereafter. Season passes also are available. For details, visit goldenagecinemas.com.