by Simona Radeva
Hull’s Angels, the non-profit organization behind Hull’s Drive-in, bought the four acres of land where the theater operates. But the group still needs more funds to cover expenses.
“The goal had always been to hopefully own the land, but the owner had never wanted to sell the land in the past,” said Hull’s Angels Executive Director Lauren Summers.
Hull’s Drive-in opened in 1950 and became a nonprofit when Hull’s Angels took over in May 2001. Hull’s, located at 2367 N. Lee Highway, is known as the “nation’s first nonprofit, community-owned drive-in theater.”
Hull’s Angels started fundraising with an initial goal of $350,000 in March 2021. The group closed on the purchase of the land in October, taking out a mortgage to cover the rest of the $442,500 purchase price.
“We’re trying to continue to raise funds so that we don’t have to change the way we operate out of the drive-in too significantly,” Summers said.
Multiple local businesses have donated to Hull’s Angels in order to help with the land purchase. Some of them are Cornerstone Bank, Walkabout Outfitter and the Virginia Safari Park.
“Our donors are probably close to 600 people,” Summers said. “Most of them are local folks, but we also got donations from people from 16 different states.”
Most recently, the city of Lexington made a $5,000 contribution to the drive-in.
As a nonprofit, Hull’s will also be receiving a real-estate tax exemption from Rockbridge County following the purchase of the land.
“With Rockbridge County already committed to support Hull’s, it is more than appropriate for Lexington to follow the lead of our partner and make a contribution,” said Lexingtons City Manager Jim Halasz in the published minutes of the Nov. 4 City Council meeting.
Over the years, Hull’s has become a venue for all kinds of artistic events in addition to movie screenings. Stephanie Sandberg, assistant professor of theater and film at Washington and Lee University, had one of her documentaries titled “Intimate Violence” premiere at Hull’s.
“Hull’s became a very important part of that process and I’m so thankful for them,” Sandberg said. “Every single community really does need outlets for storytelling.”
Sandberg said she goes to see Hull’s’ screenings all the time in the summer months.
“If you go during the months when it’s open, you can see the community coming together,” she said. “It becomes a kind of communal ritual experience.”
This sentiment was echoed by Katrina Broughman, an eight-grade English teacher at Nelson Middle School in Lovingston, Va. Broughman is a Rockbridge County native and was the lead organizer of “Recover Fest,” which was hosted at Hull’s this past summer.
“We got the idea to do the event at Hull’s because they’re also a nonprofit and being from Rockbridge – everyone who’s from there loves Hull’s,” Broughman said. “It’s been a childhood staple of mine personally and of many other people who were on the group.”
Broughman said that she can’t possibly count the times she’s gone to Hull’s over the years.
“Being from a small area, going to Hull’s was always a way to run into people, especially when you live far out in the county like I did,” she said.
“It’s truly a piece of the fabric of the community,” Lauren Summers said. “A piece of Americana that is dwindling.”
To make a donation and help preserve the drive-in, go to https://www.hullsdrivein.com/donate/.