Melody Drive-In Theater History

The History of The Melody Drive-In Theater

ABOUT

The Melody Drive-In Theater in Bass Lake Indiana is currently getting ready to open its doors for it’s 71st annual season. Fred and Louise Heise worked hard to make sure the Melody was the model theater that people of all ages, and generations of families could come and enjoy a night under the stars with a good movie, great food, and an amazing environment. Without their leadership, the Melody might not be around today. This is a brief history of the Heise family’s ownership of the Melody.

Past Image

This is an image of the Drive-in’s movie listing sign and the back of the original screen of the Melody. The movies listed on this picture suggest that it was taken during May of 1998, when the movies were making their debut. The drive-in sign has lights surrounding the names of the upcoming attractions and declares that the drive-in is open every day of the week (it starts off the season only being open on the weekends, then moves on to all week operations). In the back of the picture on the right bottom corner is the ticket booth that consumers will buy tickets, get their playbills, and are greeted by friendly workers. The back of the screen looks very different if you drive by it today. Fred and Louise had to replace it back in 2013 when a storm blew it down. This, along with the problems and expenses of going digital, made 2013 a trying year. This is the view patrons would see from the street as they drove by or stopped at the Melody Drive-in.

Although the screen is different than it was in 1998, the owners of the Melody have focused on keeping the authenticity of the drive-in experience as similar to the past as possible. The catchy motto in which the drive-in continues it’s operations on being, “Presenting the future, while preserving the past”. The drive-in is surrounded by trees of all shapes and sizes, and allows it’s customers to be immersed into nature while they watch a movie under the stars.


Interviewing the Man Behind the Movies:

Together, Fred and Louise Heise took on ownership of the Melody in the early 1970’s, after just three weeks of marriage, taking over for Louise’s parents. Fred explained in my interview with him that the beginning was rocky because like most marriages they had to get used to one another’s preferences and work ethics. Once the couple started to understand one another and the way they each wanted to run the business, the drive-in had a winning ownership.

The Heise family cares about the community and the people who come to their theater. Fred explained to me that his favorite part of running the business all these years was the people. He loves to see that his family is making a difference and allowing people to experience what a drive-in should be.

The Melody is going into its 71st season this year, but will unfortunately begin without the guidance of Louise, as she passed away in July of this year. The Melody Drive-In would not be where it is without her.


FUN MELODY FACTS:

  • The Melody once hosted a circus! According to owner, Fred Heise, a circus was driving by the Melody and asked if they could water their animals. That night, the circus did an event with the drive-in and allowed patrons to participate in a family circus night.
  • The Melody holds church services every Sunday since the late 90’s. That’s Right! Church at the movies! This came to be when a church van pulled up asking if they could hold a service one Sunday to try it out, Fred says that the services have been an overall success since. They put the pastor on the screens of the drive-in and play his voice through speakers.
  • The Melody Drive-In was originally going to be placed in Logansport. Original owners were from Logansport, Indiana and planned on establishing a drive in there but quickly decided against it when word of another drive-in’s development spread. The men then decided on the drive-in’s location because it was easily accessible to the people of Logansport, Bass Lake, and Knox.
  • The Melody’s concession stand is more than just popcorn and soda! In fact, Fred explained that the most popular item on the menu was not popcorn but was the drive-in’s world famous bread sticks, which a buddy of his told him about and he decided to start selling.
  • The Melody is a family owned, family friendly business, where people of all ages and backgrounds can expect a fun night, with tons of history, at the movies.

All information for these fun facts is provided by an interview with owner, Fred Heise.


Meet the Owners:

Fred Heise: Fred Heise started his ownership of the Melody Drive-in in 1970 when he was 22 years old. Him, along with his wife, have owned the drive-in ever since. He says that his favorite part of owning the drive-in is the people, he loves watching people return to the drive-in and bring their growing families with them.

Louise Heise: Louise Heise shared ownership with her husband for 40 years. Louise was large part of the creation of what the Melody is today. Unfortunately, Louise passed in July, 2019.


Suggested Readings:

Corbett, Kevin J. 2001. “The Big Picture: Theatrical Moviegoing, Digital Television, and beyond the Substitution Effect.” Cinema Journal

Segrave, Kerry. Drive-in Theaters: a History from Their Inception in 1933. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 2006.

The Lakes Magazine July 2019  


About the Author:

This website was created as the final History Research class of Michelle Breslan. Michelle is a Junior at Purdue Northwest, majoring in History. The Melody is a place near to her heart.

Thank you!

A huge thank you to Fred Heise for helping with the creation of this project and for creating an amazing environment for people to go see a movie under the stars.


Share Your Melody Story!

If you have been to the Melody and wish to share your story please contact us at mbreslan@pnw.edu!

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