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Back to the drive-in future

New owner of the Lower Wonga Drive-In, Greg Beer, is looking forward to opening the cinema before Christmas.
New owner of the Lower Wonga Drive-In, Greg Beer, is looking forward to opening the cinema before Christmas. Renee Pilcher

NEW Lower Wonga Drive-In proprietor Greg Beer just picked up the keys to his new acquisition on Thursday and said he would have the cinema open before Christmas.

The Gympie Times was there when Mr Beer first arrived at the property as the new owner.

But he’s no newcomer to the drive-in, having worked on the last day it was open for previous owner Gary King.

The settlement for the purchase went through without any hiccups on Wednesday and now Mr Beer will start plans to relocate from Brisbane.

A popular destination, with 1062 fans on Facebook, the drive-in has languished since it closed in mid-October last year.

The grass is overgrown, weeding is overdue and some the equipment has “arthritis” but, after a spruce up, the place will hopefully be restored to its former glory, Mr Beer said.

Greg Beer is planning on living out at one of Australia’s last remaining drive-ins at Lower Wonga.

He just purchased the 20.23 hectare property that includes a house, the three screen theatre and eatery for the bargain price of $380,000.

“But there is a lot of work to do,” he said, before the cinema can be opened again.

The property was placed on the market by the bank when previous owner Gary King could not afford to run both the Sovereign Cinema and the drive-in anymore.

“I feel sorry for Gary, he put that much into it.”

Mr Beer worked at the cinema for 10 years keeping the movies running when Mr King was away working at the mines.

The Kilkivan man moved to Brisbane a few years ago and has worked for Birch Carroll and Coyle for 28 years.

So he knows a thing or two about fixing old 28mm film equipment and has bought up another technician, Roger Harrison, who has 45 years experience in the industry, for more help.

At 67 Mr Beer said he was at retiring age and there was nothing keeping him in Brisbane so he decided to take a gamble on the business, which he said was capable of doing well.

He will start moving in next Tuesday and by Thursday next week will be permanently on-site.

Then he will focus on getting the equipment up and running and securing some films to show.

Mr King will not return to help run the drive-in, as was rumoured, Mr Beer said.

Instead he will look for someone he can train up to help operate the machines.

The Lower Wonga Drive-In Facebook page was flooded with messages from people saying they loved and missed the drive in when the news of a new owner and its potential opening before Christmas was posted two weeks ago.

Over 60 comments showed fans’ support of the re-opening.

Mr Beer said movies showed at the drive in would follow the Sovereign Cinema’s release dates by up to a month.

Gympie Times

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