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Owners of Silver Bow Drive In concerned proposed truck stop could turn away moviegoers

The Silver Bow Drive In just outside of Butte is one of the last drive-in theaters in the state of Montana.
Posted at 7:28 PM, Dec 12, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-13 12:34:51-05

BUTTE — The Silver Bow Drive In just outside of Butte is one of the last drive-in theaters in the state of Montana, but the family that’s owned this business for decades fears for the future if a proposed truck stop is built next door.

“You know, the extra traffic of semis and light pollution and noise, I don’t think people would like that,” said Jens Hansen, who owns the drive-in with his family.

Ronning Development is seeking a conditional use permit to build a convenience store and gas station on the 17 acres of land located off Interstate 15 just east of the drive-in theater. The family fears the proximity of this business would potentially force them to close.

“People don’t come to movies like they used to. Even the slightest disruption, you know, could lead people to not want to come,” said Hansen.

The Hansen family has run the drive-in off German Gulch Road just south of Butte since 1977. As one of the few remaining drive-in theaters, it attracts people from all over.

“Well, I think it’s the experience, it’s something they want to take their kids to before it goes away,” said Mark Hansen.

The Hansens say the theater is a special place that brings communities together. People have even proposed marriage at the theater.

“They’ll put some pictures on the screen for them and they’ll get out and propose in front of everybody and cars honk,” said Jens Hansen.

The owners hope people will speak out against this project at an upcoming zoning meeting.

“A truck stop I think would diminish that enjoyment, so I’d like to see people voice their opinions if they don’t want that nearby,” said Jens.

The zoning board meeting is Thursday, Dec. 14 at 5:30 p.m. on the third floor of the Butte Courthouse in Butte’s Council Chambers.