Ponca City—The House FM and My Praise FM, local Christian radio stations, sponsored the last movie shown at the Airline Drive-In in Ponca City. After being vacant for about seven years, the Airline was sold to make way for a new housing addition.
After reading the news of the sale, Doyle Brewer, CEO, founder and manager of The House FM, set out to rent the Airline for one more showing.
“I just contacted the owner and asked if we could rent this for one more showing, and I told him that I wanted it to be ‘God’s Not Dead,’” Brewer said.
Due to the seven years of vacancy, there was a lot of work that needed to be done to ready the screen and parking lot for viewing.
“The screen had big gray streaks all the way through it,” Brewer explained. “Volunteers from Ponca City, Northeast offered to paint it and provide the paint for free. That helped a lot.
“Alan’s Mowing helped us almost every week with mowing. When we started, the place was over your head in grass and weeds. We also had to cut down a lot of trees and clear out old cars and junk left from an old flea market and oil field workers who had rented the property.”
The entire community stepped in to get the job done.
Jennifer Vaughan, development coordinator and operations assistant for The House FM, helped plan and promote the event.
“The original showing dates were Aug. 14-17 with record numbers of more than 2,000 each night and we had to turn people away,” Vaughan said. “It was decided we would have additional showings Aug. 22-23 and Aug. 29-31. Altogether, 10,451 people attended the nine showings at the Drive-In.”
A big part of this event was getting listeners and church members on board for outreach.
“Our emphasis is to not just have our listeners come out, but for them to bring their lost friends,” Brewer said. “When we work with the churches, we are encouraging the same thing.
“Ponca City, First sponsored two nights of the showings and provided 2,000 bottles of water. Northeast did the same thing.”
Vaughan was amazed at the responses they saw.
“Only God knows how many have accepted Him in their cars or at home and how He’ll work through the seeds that have been planted,” Vaughan said.
Andy Taylor, senior pastor of Ponca City, First, met with Brewer over lunch to discuss the idea of renting the Drive-In for one final movie.
“(Doyle) presented the idea to me and asked if we would be the major sponsor,” Taylor said.
“Our people jumped in and helped clean up the drive-in. It was very overgrown and looked terrible.
“Every night, our people stood at the gate to count people in and welcome them.
“The community really got behind the movie. Churches put in a lot of hard work on this. People showed up every night in droves and heard the Gospel. Thousands of people interacted with our members who volunteered.”
Ponca City, Northeast, also jumped in on the chance to help out. Senior Pastor Larry Nigh was excited about the opportunity.
“Our people quickly got behind the event and when we asked for volunteers to help, we were overwhelmed by the response,” Nigh said. “We had more than 90 of our members who committed to serve in a variety of ways.”
Vaughan expressed her appreciation for all the volunteers.
“The city has really come behind this whole thing,” Vaughan said. “None of this would have been possible without countless volunteers, major sponsors, support of the wonderful people in this area of Oklahoma and Kansas, and our gracious Lord.”
At the end of each show, the audience was encouraged to head to the prayer tent at the back of the Drive-In for prayer, questions or to make a decision.
There were at least three confirmed salvations because of the showing. Several other people sought prayer and admitted their need to get back into churches.
Brewer credited three things for the success of this event.
“The three things that really made this event a success were, first, that the movie has been so outstanding; it was No. 5 at the box office for two weeks. Second, it is free and third, we had people who were coming that would never come to one of our Christian movies at the theater, but they just want to come see a movie here before they tear down the screen,” Brewer said.
“That was the reason we did it,” Brewer explained. “We knew that there was that kind of desire to see the theater one more time, and it gave us a chance to get people out who just wouldn’t come otherwise.”
Nigh explained how great he felt the movie was.
“It is the best new Christian film I have seen in a long time,” he said. “The story line was thought provoking, and the acting superb. It is a movie everyone can relate to and one somebody in their circle of friends needs to see.”
Brewer, Nigh and Taylor all hope to springboard off this event to draw in the community, especially those who won’t go to churches.
“I am thankful for Doyle Brewer’s vision for this,” Taylor said. “The Airline Drive-In is gone now, but I just bet we are going to find a way to do something like this again . . . if we have to hang 10 bed sheets from the side of our church and watch from the parking lot!”