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It's Showtime!

Oldham County family ready to start building a drive-in

Sauerbecks see much promise
in capturing untapped market

LA GRANGE, Ky. (October 2017) – Stephen Sauerbeck worked his first job at the Oldham 8 movie theater in La Grange, Ky., and hasn’t stepped away from the business since.
Next spring, Sauerbeck and his family plan to open the Sauerbeck Family Drive-In, the only theater of its kind in Oldham County and the only theater of any kind still operating in Oldham County since the Oldham 8 shut its doors in 2013.
At its completion, the new complex will feature two screens, a concession stand, restrooms and gravel lots that will accommodate up to 800 cars. Sauerbeck said that the family hopes to open the theater on the first weekend of April 2018, with groundbreaking beginning in the next 30 to 45 days “as soon as the county permits are completed.”

Photo by Don Ward

Stephen Sauerbeck and his family are ready to break ground on a new drive-in for La Grange, Ky.’s Commerce Parkway area. He has spent many years working in movie theaters, starting with the Oldham 8 cinemas.

Sauerbeck said he saw the theater as an opportunity to capitalize on a lack of entertainment in Oldham County and to create an attraction that would ideally draw people in from neighboring counties. For one of the highest-income counties in the state, Oldham had relatively no commercial entertainment to keep residents from commuting to Louisville, Sauerbeck said.
“When the Oldham 8 closed, it left a hole in the market,” Sauerbeck said.
Sauerbeck said the idea also came from the fact that few other drive in theaters existed in the area, with the closest being in Georgetown, Ind., and a smaller one in Versailles, Ind. Sauerbeck and his family were even once turned away from the Georgetown theater due to maxed capacity, he recalled.
The family faced some challenges getting the theater idea off the ground.
Sauerbeck had originally planned the build site to be at 5800 Old La Grange Rd., on a rural road in Crestwood, Ky., that runs adjacent to a residential area and CSX train tracks. Concerns arose, however, over unwanted traffic near the residential area, proximity of the theater to the train tracks, and lack of sewer ability. Also, a three-acre “leeching field” would have had to have been built due to septic complications, said Sauerbeck.
The technical issues prompted Sauerbeck to withdraw plans for the site and begin shopping for a new one. Together, he and realtor Shane Chapman of Bob Hayes Realty looked at more than 20 other sites and visited half a dozen before settling on a 30-acre block of land in the business area along Commerce Parkway in La Grange in late August.
The theater will only be partially completed when it opens to the public next spring, he said. The plan is to build the first phase movie screen to accommodate 450 cars, then add a second movie screen later that would accommodate 350 cars. Construction for the first phase will cost roughly $2 million, Sauerbeck said, while the second phase could cost an additional $1 million.
The theater will feature what Sauerbeck referred to as “state of the art” digital projectors. He said that the family is still deciding on which projector to purchase, along with some items for the concession stand.
“One of our ideas was homemade donuts,” Sauerbeck said. “We’re looking into getting a robot donut maker.”
Oldham County Chamber and Economic Development Executive Director David Bizianes is in favor of the project’s potential to bring business to Oldham County.
“When an entrepreneur plants a flag, he takes a risk,” Bizianes said of the backlash Sauerbeck received when he announced the location of the first build site. “I’m glad he didn’t get discouraged and found a new location.”
Bizianes has worked with Sauerbeck in the past to get his idea running. His job as executive director includes providing multiple options for build sites, facilitating the process with utilities, and helping entrepreneurs market their ideas. Bizianes said that Sauerbeck’s drive-in project, however, came without his help.
Added commerce and retail interest are among the reasons that Bizianes advocates the theater. He added that the attention from Oldham County residents and visitors from out of town could prove beneficial for downtown La Grange and local restaurants.
Additionally, Bizianes said the drive-in would give reasons for “Oldham residents to stay in Oldham County.”
Oldham County Judge-Executive David Voegele said he thinks the theater will draw people from around the region. He also expressed concerns to Sauerbeck over the theater being a “family friendly” place for visitors, which Sauerbeck reassured.
“I wish them the best of success,” Voegele said.

Bizianes said that a ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place either at the groundbreaking or at the theater’s opening, depending on Sauerbeck’s wishes.

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