The U.P. Film Union is a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation that was created out of a love of motion pictures with the primary goal of saving the last remaining drive-in theater in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, The Highway 2 Community Drive-In Theater.
The U.P. Film Union got its start in the spring of 2016 when Don Erickson had the idea of trying to organize an outdoor community movie event. Coincidentally, he mentioned the idea to an acquaintance, who happened to own the old drive-in property outside of Manistique and suggested using the screen there for the community movie event. The following spring Don met Eric Sherbinow at a community meeting and mentioned that he was working on a project at the old drive-in. Eric long had an interest in drive-in theaters and had sought to purchase one years earlier and the idea of being involved in a drive-in event was too much to resist, so he asked Don if he could help. That is when the Upper Peninsula Film Union unofficially came into being. When the Film Union sought to incorporate, they needed a third person for the board and respected businessman Kevin Knaffla was a natural choice. He had great interest in film and knowledge of the Film Union’s events. When asked to be a board member he immediately said yes. Kevin brought a wealth of business experience to the Film Union.
The U.P. Film Union typically hosts three or four movie events per season. These events draw people from across the region. From the time the Film Union acquired the drive-in it has been our intention to expand our events to include more than just movie showings. Recently, the U.P. Film Union has hosted the Manistique High School Class of 2020 graduation ceremony, a Girl Scout bridging ceremony and a Covid-19 safe teacher/student end of year gathering as well as a kiddie parade for Independence Day. We have recently partnered with Encore Live (a concert promotion company) to show a series of concerts at drive-ins all across the country. The first show was an exclusive concert from Garth Brooks on June 27, 2020, which was very well received. In addition, the Film Union hosted an event with socially distanced pictures with Santa Claus and a nighttime reading on the big screen of a Christmas favorite by Santa himself!
The Highway 2 Community Drive-In Theater is one of the very few nonprofit drive-in theaters in the country (we are aware of only two others besides ourselves) and it operates like no other. The movie events (not special events like the concerts) are always free to the public thanks to generous U.P. corporate sponsors. During these special events, various nonprofit groups operate the concession stand, retaining the funds raised by sales in order to fund their cause. To date, over $20,000 has been raised for nonprofits throughout the Upper Peninsula.
The free movie events and the concession operation by other nonprofit organizations truly exemplifies the sense of community at the Highway 2 Community Drive-In Theater.
All donations the Film Union receive go directly toward keeping the theater alive and no one in the organization is compensated in any way for the countless hours they have spent making these events happen.