Vali-Hi’s future remains uncertain, but Google says Lake Elmo drive-in has closed

Fans of the Vali-Hi Drive-In are mourning the Lake Elmo movie theater’s apparent closure.

A hiring event for the 800-car capacity theater, located off Interstate 94 at 11260 Hudson Blvd. N., was canceled in May. The Vali-Hi’s website still was up Friday, but no current movie showings are listed, and it appears the theater’s phone has been disconnected.

The latest blow for moviegoers — Google listing the drive-in as not just temporarily but “permanently closed” — was shared Thursday with members of the Vali-Hi Drive-In Fan Page on Facebook.

“I do believe it is true, unfortunately,” said Michael Granica, who started the Facebook fan page in 2007 that now boasts more than 10,800 followers. “I’m so sad.”

Vali-Hi owner Robert O’Neil could not be reached to confirm the news.

Concerned fans have been calling and emailing Lake Elmo City Hall all summer to ask about the future of the business, said Kristina Handt, city administrator.

City officials also have received inquiries as to the availability of the land for development, but the 22-acre site is in an area of Lake Elmo where a moratorium has been placed on new plats — both for residential and commercial developments — because of concerns about the city’s water supply, Handt said.

“Given that the land is in the moratorium area, we have told them that we will not accept any applications for development of the site until April 2023,” Handt said.

In an interview with St. Croix Valley Magazine in 2018, O’Neil said his father loved movies and that he grew up with a movie projector at home and, at one time, four local drive-ins in his family. “Ask his favorite film, and he can’t even answer,” according to the interview. “ ‘In 60 years, I haven’t bought a ticket!’ he says.”

According to Explore Minnesota, the state’s tourism website, there are only five other drive-in theaters in the state: in Elko, Litchfield, Long Prairie, Luverne and Warren.

The east metro’s other drive-in theater, Cottage View Drive-in in Cottage Grove, closed in 2012. It is now a Walmart.

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