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A U-Haul truck ripped the building from its foundation; GoFundMe effort reaches $7,000 for repairs

COURTESY PHOTO: BRIAN FRANCIS - The ticket booth at the 99W Drive-In was damaged recently when a truck exited the facility in the wrong direction.

It was a normal Friday night at Newberg's 99W Drive-In Theatre when Brian Francis discovered a scene that would anguish any business owner.

At 10:15 p.m., during intermission of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," Francis stopped by the box office and was surprised when he struggled to open the door. Once he managed to get inside the 69-year-old building, he found everything strewn on the floor.

"My first thought was, 'Did someone trash this place?'" he said.

But the problem turned out to be much worse.

While leaving through the exit, a vehicle had yanked the box office from its foundation and twisted it, pulling the building as they drove by. In the process, all the wiring had been ripped out.

"You know, like in the 'Terminator' movie?" Francis said.

He quickly informed his staff.

"(Francis) came into the snack bar saying that there was a terrible accident at the box office and that someone broke the box office," Ashton Livingston, one of Francis's employees, said over Facebook Messenger. "Initially we thought he was making a joke until we got out and saw the box office had been ripped out of the ground and twisted. We were all kind of in shock and pretty upset that someone would do this."

Shortly after, Livingston called the police and visited neighboring businesses to check for any security camera footage of the hit-and-run incident.

Based on evidence left at the scene, the police traced the culprits back to a local hotel, where they found a beat-up U-Haul truck. The responsible party turned out to be The Denton Delinquents, an acting troupe Francis had hired to perform during "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" for the past nine years, including that weekend.

"They were told to enter and exit through the side gate due to their U-Haul, but when they left, they went through the main entrance/exit," Livingston said. "They hit the roof of the exit on their way out and kept going, ripping out the building and twisting it."

When the staff called the troupe, they admitted to causing the damage, claiming they planned to notify Francis when they returned the next evening to perform.

Francis, however, canceled the next performance.

"I felt a sense of betrayal but also felt sorry for them and what happened to the building," Francis said, pointing out that they're a small group that doesn't make much money per showing. "It's a horrible, awful thing to happen."

In a statement to Pamplin Media Group over Facebook Messenger, the troupe said, "The Denton Delinquents regret the accident that happened at 99W and are attempting to amicably settle, but litigation is pending and we would rather not go into details until the matter is resolved."

Francis is in talks with the troupe to see what U-Haul insurance will cover. Francis's own insurance, being only liability, will not cover the damage.

Luckily, there are back-up funds if insurance doesn't come through, courtesy of the community.

Almost immediately after the news about the incident hit social media, longtime drive-in customer Matthew Zangara began a GoFundMe page to help raise money for the repairs. In less than 48 hours, the fund had raised over $4,000 through mere word of mouth. As of Friday, the fund sat at more than $7,000.

Zangara, who was born in Newberg and has enjoyed the drive-in for 31 years, said he hadn't anticipated raising that much money.

"I didn't expect it to go crazy like this," he said over Facebook Messenger. "I expected maybe $50."

As for why he started the fund, despite not knowing Francis personally, Zangara said, "When you go to the drive-in, everyone is family."

While several people have offered to build a new box office for free, Francis said he wants to preserve the original building as much as possible.

For now, Francis has no idea how much repairs will cost, but said any leftover money from the GoFundMe account will go toward new poles for the fences and several other needed renovations.

"I hate to ask people for money, but it could be very much a lifesaver here," Francis said.

Despite the damages, the drive-in is operational with a few adjustments.

"Right now, we're only able to use one side of the box office, but we don't have the ability to run any credit cards in the box office, so we prefer cash for entering the drive-in, as it will be faster and easier," Livingston said.

However, people who still want to use their card can drive to the back of the concessions building and pay there.

"(The drive-in) is a huge historical piece of Newberg and cinema as a whole," Livingston said. "It brings a ton of people together and is one of the last drive-in experiences there is. People love the experience and the nostalgia of it all."

"The community loves the drive-in more than Brian realizes," Zangara said.

To donate to the drive-in's GoFundMe account, visit https://bit.ly/3B8sTlf.


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