After Hours: Celebrating a summer ritual at Boulevard Drive-in

Alisha, Ryan, Kean and Kelsey Flanagan watched “Despicable Me 3.”
Alisha, Ryan, Kean and Kelsey Flanagan watched “Despicable Me 3.” Special to Ink

The drive-in movie experience is about so much more than just seeing a film on a big screen. There is something about it that is hardwired into our American DNA.

For Wes Neal, 90, owner of Boulevard Drive-in, it has been his life for 65 years. Wes still collects admission money at the front gate on Sunday nights, though his family now helps him run the theater. “It keeps me young,” he says.

The theater, 1051 Merriam Lane in KCK, holds the charm of years past with vintage speakers, a stainless steel snack bar and the iconic glowing red sign. And while some kids linger over electronic devices waiting for showtime, the movie titles change and the cars are newer, once the sun sets and the screen begins to glow, little changes for this summer ritual.

After Hours is Christopher Smith’s photo column exploring Kansas City at night. Send story ideas to