Customer service is key as Valle Drive-In opens for season

Published: Monday, April 29, 2013 11:34 a.m. CDT

While the era of classic cars lined up at drive-in theaters may be decades in the past, all it takes for a little jaunt back in time is a drive west on First Avenue to the Valle Drive-In.

Just a short drive away from the Westwood Golf Course lies an American treasure just waiting to be discovered. Simply pulling into the theater feels like opening a time capsule, as the theater first opened in 1948. While some go for the movies, other go for the experience — and for good reason.

Only four drive-in theaters remain in Iowa, and owner of the Valle, Jim Mertz, said he is happy to be included in those select few. A recent study published in the Los Angeles Times said drive-ins comprised of only 1.5 percent of movie screens in the United States, and at the industry’s peak, 25 percent of the nation’s movie screens had been drive-ins.

Since the movie industry is struggling, the Valle concentrates  on customer service. Every staff member at the theater greets every guest with a smile, and that is just what owner Jim Mertz wants.

“We try to cater to the family,” Mertz said.

Both young and old, almost everyone at the theater walks around and converses with one another. While some talk with family, others visit with friends.

The theater has also experienced updates since opening. It still offers customers the classic audio experience by offering the option of placing a speaker on the window of the vehicle. For a more modern experience, customers are invited to listen to the movie’s audio through their car radios.

Mertz is no stranger to the business, he said he has owned the drive-in since 1976. He said families sometimes arrive a few hours before the movie starts to make an activity out it.

He said he expects big crowds for movies like “Iron man 3,” “The Man of Steel” and “Fast and the Furious 6.”

Mertz  also said  many customers arrive with coolers filled with various foods and drinks and have a “tailgate like party.”

As a reminder, Mertz said there is no grilling allowed at the theater. This also includes the use of a George Foreman Grills. For those looking for hot dogs, the theater’s snack bar sells it.

Like an indoor movie theater, Valle Drive-In offers a wide range of snacks at its snake bar. The snack bar offers everything from soda to nachos, all with a reasonable price.

While some prefer to chow down before the movie, others open there hatchback and cuddle up in a blanket and looks at the stars before the show, but one thing is for sure, Jasper County loves its drive-in.

Valle Drive-In is located  at 4074 Hwy F48 W. Ticket prices for customers ages 12 and up are $7.50 per person, ages 5 through 11 it’s $4.00 and children four years and under are free. Hours of operation are Friday thru Sunday. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the movie stats at dusk. Please call (641) 792-3558 for more information.

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