The Kenda Drive-In was opened in April 1966 in Marshall (Searcy County) by Kenneth and Marilyn Sanders. The Sanderses were already running the in-door Ken Theatre in downtown Marshall when they decided to build a drive-in theater on six acres on the north side of town. They named the new business the Kenda Drive-In after their daughter. The couple ran both theaters for two years until the Ken Theatre burned in 1968.
Kenneth and Marilyn Sanders enlisted the help of their sons, Steve and Bill, and daughter Kenda in running the drive-in—mowing, picking up trash, running the projection booth, and working the concessions. Running seven nights a week with a rotation of as many as four movies per week was the norm. By the 1980s, the number of drive-ins nationwide was on the decline. Cable TV and VHS recordings were cutting into the drive-in market. The Kenda managed to survive the lean years, however.
The couple retired in 2003 and turned the drive-in over to their daughter and son-in law, Kenda and Todd Dearing. As one of only three drive-ins left in Arkansas, the Kenda began to gain popularity with people from around the state. In the early years, the majority of the crowd on any given night was local, but audiences began coming from all over Arkansas and southern Missouri for the drive-in movie experience.
At first glance, the Kenda Drive-In does not appear to have changed much over the years; however, major improvements in both the facility and equipment have greatly changed the movie experience. Facing the “go digital or go black” dilemma, as studios transitioned from film to digital projection, the Kenda installed a Christie digital projection system in 2013, digital FM sound in 2014, and a resurfaced 36′ x 72′ steel screen in 2016.
The Kenda Drive-In is open throughout the year, from weekends only during the winter months to Friday through Tuesday in the summer, showing first-run double features. Numerous free-admission events are held each year, including Family Fun Nights and Spooky Fun Nights for the kids and Throwback Thursdays for antique-car enthusiasts.
For additional information:
Kenda Drive-In. http://www.kendadrivein.com/ (accessed November 9, 2017).
Last Updated: 02/24/2020