The World's drive-in

Sisters, Elin, 9, left, Elliette, 6, and Isla, 4, right, sit under blankets on top of an air mattress in the back of their parents’ Spencer and Sarah Kuhl’s pickup before the showing of “Grease” at the pop-up drive-in theater Thursday night at the Buffalo County Fairgrounds in Kearney.

KEARNEY — When the sun set one week ago and leaders of Kearney’s nonprofit World Theatre scanned the parking area at the Buffalo County Fairgrounds, they saw what they were hoping and praying to see: A sellout crowd.

“We had a lot of good fortune on this and a lot of help,” said Mark Orr, president of The World Theatre’s Board of Directors.

Orr said he was grateful to the multiple businesses and individuals who helped erect the screen and make other physical preparations for the drive-in’s June 18 opening, which featured “Grease” starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. The World Theatre in downtown Kearney has been dark since March when the coronavirus outbreak began, so the nonprofit theater’s leadership looked for ways to keep its supporters and audiences engaged.

The pop-up drive-in was the answer.

An army of volunteers also helped operate the theater last week, delivering concessions and ushering in the 242 or more vehicles that filled the fairgrounds.

Tonight, Kearney’s pop-up theater will screen its second motion picture, a drive-in favorite, “Goonies.” Gates will open at 8 p.m. and the show will begin at sundown tonight, Friday and Saturday. Next weekend’s movie, in recognition of the Fourth of July holiday, will be “Independence Day.”

The World plans to continue the drive-in theater through the summer.

Last week’s sellout culminated several weeks of scrambling to open the drive-in and provide people in the Kearney area an entertainment option. World Theatre leaders said they also hoped to provide some help for Kearney art and cultural venues that have been shuttered because of coronavirus. The World made good on its word this week by presenting Crane River Theater a check representing 5 percent of the gate proceeds from “Grease.”

Advance admission at The World drive-in is $20 per car, and can be purchased on The World’s website. If it’s not a sellout, cars can pay $25 at the gate to enter.

The pop-up theater’s capacity is 242 vehicles.