Haar's Drive-In Theatre in Dillsburg will stay open through the end of this season.

That much is certain, owner Vickie Hardy said.

Beyond that, though, the fate of the 56-year-old drive-in is hazy.

Customers routinely ask Hardy about the future of Haar's, she said. Rumors of its closing seem to float around every year -- even in 2003, the year Hardy took it over.

"Please don't close," Hardy recalls customers saying repeatedly. "What can we do?"

It would be nice, Hardy said, if customers went to the theater's concession stand instead of bringing their own food. That's a tough policy to enforce, but the $1.80 for each hot dog and $3 for each hamburger makes a difference.

Also, attendance dropped last summer amid skyrocketing gas prices. Suddenly, fewer people were willing to drive to the northern York County business and plunk down $7 to see a movie. Ticket sales slipped between 2007 and 2008, Hardy said.

Therefore, at the end of last summer, Hardy discussed the drive-in's future with her fellow owners; her husband, Doug Hardy; her cousin, Sandra Haar; her sister, Connie Darbrow and Connie's husband, Al Darbrow.

The group's decision: it will stay open through this summer. Its annual antique car show on the Sunday before Labor Day will proceed. So will its antique auction on Labor Day.

After that, the group plans to chat again, Hardy said.

Can the drive-in stay solvent? That's the question the owners will confront.

In the meantime, they're making a subtle marketing push.


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"Keep the drive-in open," its Web site states. "Patronize the restaurant."

But the place is about more than just eating and watching movies, said Tami Hopkins, a movie-goer from Chambersburg who visits Haar's once or twice a month.

Hopkins and her husband, Ron, bring their 12-year-old daughter, Mackenzie. They usually arrive early and set up a table to play cards. Later, they'll hit a volleyball around. Mackenzie usually brings a friend, Tami Hopkins said.

Samuel Heffelfinger has watched movies at Haar's since its 1953 opening. Every Saturday, he and his wife, Arthena, leave their Mechanicsburg home at 5 p.m., aiming to be first in line for tickets.

While they wait for the movie to start, Heffelfinger takes a walk around the lot, and Arthena reads a book. They park in the same spot each week, about five rows away from the screen.

As for Tami Hopkins, it doesn't matter that Haar's is more than an hour's drive from her home. Nor does it matter that they pass right by another, closer drive-in on the way.

The fries at the closer venue taste frozen and deep-fried, she said, while the fries at Haar's taste fresh.

Seeing Haar's close, Hopkins said, would be like losing a historic icon.

"There's just very few drive-ins out there anymore," Hopkins said. "It would be sad to see that happen."


ABOUT HAAR'S

Haar's Drive-In Theatre, 185 Logan Road, Dillsburg, shows movies every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night.

The ticket office opens at 6:30 p.m., and the first movie begins at about 9 p.m., or whenever it gets dark. There's a 20-minute intermission between the first movie and the second, which usually begins at about 10:50 p.m., owner Vickie Hardy said.

This weekend, the first movie is "Up," and the second is "Race to Witch Mountain."

Tickets are $7 for anyone 12 and older; admission is $2 for ages 3 to 11 and free for anyone under 3.

- What became of the Stony Brook Drive-in? Find out at York Town Square blog.