Growing push to revive decades-old marquee in Commerce Township

COMMERCE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WXYZ) - At the corner of Richardson and Union Lake Road in Commerce Township sits a long-gone drive-in movie theater marquee — a connection to another time.

Rust spots the size of a fist pepper the seafoam green and white sign, bulbs are busted or missing and chunks of the bottom portion of the sign are missing; but that doesn’t mean people don’t see beauty in the long-standing structure.

Drive-ins bring a wave of nostalgia to those who remember them. Val McFarland is among those that transports to another time when she lays eyes on the sign, and that’s why she’s trying to revive it.

“The stories and emails that I’m getting are fantastic,” said McFarland.

The owner of the property, and the sign, has turned people away for years that wanted to buy or move the sign. McFarland convinced him recently that he could bring it back to a suitable look so that the whole community can enjoy it.

She’s enlisted the help of Keith Hesano, the owner of Woodbrook Painting, to clean up the rust and repaint the marquee. There is hope to go even further.

“I don’t want to see it like this anymore,” said Hesano, who drives by the sign every day when he goes to work. “I want it to be nice when we drive by. I want it to pop out like it used to.”

Once word got out about McFarland’s drive to give the signage a facelift her phone line began to light up. The Keller Williams realtor said that her voicemail box was filled up at one point — which is why she’s working to gather the momentum into other meaningful projects.

On Friday she was going around town passing out fliers about her efforts. She’s planning a large fundraising event that will include a family movie night where the drive-in used to be. The event would be free, but donations would be taken with proceeds going to both the marquee project and towards local families with special needs children.

In the meantime, a GoFundMe page has been set up to collect additional money that will go toward revamping the sign. She has high hopes for fixing the sign up, but is staying quiet about some of her hopes and dreams for the sign. She told 7 Action News she’d rather under promise and over-deliver when it comes to the project.

The truth is, it may be hard to not get people too excited.

Connie Locklear, 77, is among the people who reacted to the news. She reached out McFarland after she saw a post on Facebook about rejuvenating the sign.

Locklear and a handful of her friends worked at the drive-in during the summers of 1962 and 1963.

“Oh, I have a lot of memories,” said Locklear. “I always drive by it every time I come through town and look at it and remember.”

McFarland said she’s hoping people like Locklear get a chance to be wowed again, and one day soon.

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