Fire destroys screen at Amusement Park Drive-In in Laurel Monday

An electrical fire Monday destroyed the large wooden screen of the Amusement Park Drive-In theater in Laurel.

The drive-in was one of the few left in the United States, and one of the last two in Montana. The wood-framed screen was built in the 1930s and was moved to Laurel from Cody, Wyoming about 17 years ago by owner Riley Cook and his family, who also own a carnival business.

The Monday fire also damaged a concession stand and two camp trailers being stored on the property, Cook said Monday evening. “I didn’t have a dime of insurance on it because you can’t insure an old wood framed screen like that,” Cook said. Because of the age of the structures, it’s hard to put an estimate to the financial loss, “although it’s probably north of 300 grand,” he said.

The drive-in had been a nostalgic destination on hot summer nights for years, although the COVID pandemic did it no favors. For a time, crowds were barred from gathering at the drive-in, and then it became difficult to book films as the pandemic persisted, Cook said. What’s next for the drive-in, he was reluctant to predict. “I’ll probably sit and think about it for

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