According to the Albany, Oregon Democrat-Herald newspaper, Wal-Mart wants to level one of the few remaining drive-in movie theaters in the state, and replace it with a 188,000 square foot superstore. Ironically, Lebanon already has a Wal-Mart half that size, but the existing store, just south of the proposed supercenter, will become another “dark store”, as Wal-Mart likes to say, when the supercenter opens. Wal-Mart already has 400 “dark stores” on the real estate market today, about one-third of them emptied for at least three years. So Lebanon loses the drive-in, and its existing Wal-Mart at the same time. The new location is nearly 26 acres of land on Highway 20, and it will include a Wal-Mart gas station if local officials agree to the monster plan. The theater, known as the Motor Vu, was built by Tadd Nelson in 1949. He sold the building in 1975, but his relatives told me they are heart-broken that the drive-in would be demolished to make way for a Wal-Mart. The family said they are “overwhelmed with sadness” that the 53 year old drive-in would be destroyed.Wal-Mart has reportedly gone to the Lebanon City Council to get the theater condemned. Wal-Mart has informed employees in its current Lebanaon store that another store would replace it. Wal-Mart reportedly has 215 workers at its current store. Expanding the store to add a grocery is likely to have a significant impact on existing grocery stores and gas stations in the Lebanon trade area as well. Wal-Mart hopes to have the store opened by the fall, but the family that built the Motor Vu says Wal-Mart’s plans are like a bad movie in which a valuable historic resource is ruined, while a passive community watches.
For more information on the last reel at the Motor Vu, contact [email protected]