Happy nights: Former Williamson Road flea market transforms into drive-in theatre

The former Happy's Flea Market in Roanoke became an impromptu drive-in movie theatre. (Taj Simmons, Copyright 2020 by WSLS 10 - All rights reserved.)

ROANOKE, Va. – One of Williamson Road’s most iconic locations started its unexpected second life as a cinema on Saturday.

The former Happy’s Flea Market became a drive-in movie theatre, thanks to an inflatable screen and a sizable parking lot. Cars pulled in to watch ‘Shrek’ Saturday night.

Developer Jim Cherney is transforming the former Roanoke landmark into a self-storage facility. He said he thought of turning his parking lot into a drive-in soon after COVID-19 became a threat, and that it took seven months to solidify the plan.

“What we’re trying to do here is trying to focus a light on this area of Williamson Road to show the energy, community, and diversity we have here,” Cherney said.

Williamson Road Area Business Association director Val Brown also played a big role in the pop-up theatre’s development. She says she’s thrilled to see the Happy’s property provide good to the community while it is under reconstruction.

“I love it when a plan comes together,” Brown said. “This is one of the best. One of the best for sure.”

The former Happy’s will host movies every other weekend. Proceeds will be split between the Williamson Road Area Business Association and the Grandin Theatre Foundation.