History - Parma Motor-Vu

My parents, Bill and Gladys Dobbs, entered into the theatre business in 1944. The PNW theatre circuit was purchased which included Parma, New Plymouth and Wilder. My dad drove to Wilder every night and my Mom and I spent every night at the Parma Theatre. I now look back with amazement as to how I made it through second grade. As the years progressed we became a little more normal and stayed home on some school nights.

These were great years for the movie industry. During the war people became accustomed to staying in town and the movie theatre was the only form of entertainment in Parma. This continued until 1952 when the biggest movie depression of all times arrived in Parma. It was not gradual. It was as overnight as when you switched on your first television set. We went from long lines at the box office to a handful of patrons. The word television was not spoken in our home.

The television invasion brought about another movie phenomenon - the drive-in theatre. My father had great foresight and started the wheels turning. June 1953, we opened one of the valley's first drive-in theatres, the Parma Motor-Vu. I was a freshman in high school and as we "Rocked Around the Clock" it was a very exciting time in my life.

Those years were good; however, not great years. The major salvation back in the 1960's was Spanish-speaking films. That is what kept the Parma Theatre and the Motor-Vu open. By the 1970's my parents began to enjoy many prosperous years at the Motor-Vu. They started to think 'retirement' but every time a potential buyer came around my dad would run them off the place. He just couldn't give up his dream. It was 1976 when my husband, David Cornwell, and I entered into an arrangement which allowed my parents semi-retirement.

The year 1977 saw the big change to radio sound. Many of you will remember the speakers that hung on the pole beside your car and you placed it on your window, hoping you didn't forget it when you drove off. Ooops! Many a broken car window. When I recall my dad having to remove those speakers every fall, repair them, then put them back on the pole in the spring, I just have say thanks to radio sound. Yes, a few car batteries go down every night, but we have a very trusty charger.

The 1980's were tough times for drive-in and in-door theatres. Movies being seen on TV, videos, etc. all took a toll. The Parma Theatre closed in 1985. The famous Motor-Vu marquee neon went out except for the MO. We couldn't afford to get it fixed and the kids started calling it the MO. At first, it didn't seem too cute to us since it was a reminder of hard times, but it wasn't long before we, too, were calling it the MO. Finally, two years later, we got it fixed and would you believe it - the 'R' still didn't work and we then had Moe Toe Voo.

By the time we got into the 1990's the drive-ins that were left in the country were able to book more current films. Grandparents were eagerly bringing the grandkids so they could experience the drive-in. Nostalgia set in and business started gaining once again. We have stressed a family atmosphere, a clean and safe facility and the best popcorn in the valley with our 63 year-old Manley popcorn machine. Yes, it is the original and still going strong.

In 1998, we were able to "get modern" and install a used, platter film system. This is when the entire program is spliced together onto one platter. What a joy it was. (That is, when every thing went well.)

Then, like always, all good things must come to an end. Digital Cinema!! As we were approaching this new, 21st century, it was becoming quite apparent that the film industry would be making another huge change. By 2012, it was made clear that after 2013, there would be no more film. It nearly came down to that, and it has been a slow process. Many drive-in theatres have closed due to this drastic and costly change. As for us, we could not give it up. We opened the 2013 season with digital equipment and it has been an amazing experince. We enjoy a beautiful picture on our big screen. 2013 also marked our 60th anniversary with a BBQ for current and former employees, family and friends. Our four generations(all but one) were here, including my mother at the age of 103, still with us at nearly 105.

In 2014, we added Directv so we could present a 'live' closed-circuit, Jimmy Buffet concert. Directv has also given us the capability to play two Boise State football games. We plan to play games whenever possible, it simply has to be dark.

The Motor-Vu is truly a family business with my three children having grown up out here and still helping, ocassionally. I have had seven grandchildren on payroll over the past decade and employees become family. It doesn't get much better as we all love what we do and it will continue on with thanks to our faithful followers.

See you at the Motor-Vu.

Karen Dobbs Cornwell and Family