By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Sep 26, 2023 at 11:36 AM Photography: Flickr/Jib

It's been a hard month for local movie theaters – and that continues with the news that the Highway 18 Outdoor Theatre, found in Jefferson, about an hour outside of Milwaukee, is up for sale. 

As first reported by Rob Thomas of The Capital Times, Lee Burgess, the drive-in movie theater's owner, made the announcement in the Highway 18's weekly email newsletter. The drive-in's website has now been updated with the unfortunate news, stating that the outdoor theater is not only closed for the season but is now for sale, complete with contact information for interested parties. 

"I’m proud of having brought this theatre back from the dead and have enjoyed operating it over these past 25 years," said Burgess in the newsletter. "But I’m in my mid-70s now, I don’t have the energy and patience of earlier years, and no one in my family wants to take over the business. So it’s time to start the process of turning things over to a new owner."

The drive-in first opened 70 years ago in 1953 and was purchased in 1999 by Burgess, who restored the outdoor theater after the drive-in boom died off over the previous decades with the rise of malls and multiplexes. Outfitted with a 90-foot screen and digital projection – added a little more than a decade ago – the Highway 18 kept this particular cinematic tradition alive with regular double-features of new releases as well as some retro favorites.

It also helped keep cinema alive, period, during the early part of the pandemic, the outdoors and distanced set-up becoming popular once again while standard movie theaters either sat closed or sat fairly empty as many audiences stayed away from crowded indoor arrangements.

The Highway 18 marks yet another sad setback for movie-going in the southeastern Wisconsin area in September alone.

Earlier this month, Marcus Theatres closed three of its area locations – the Marcus Saukville, Marcus Showtime in Franklin and Marcus Southgate in Milwaukee – followed by the historic Downer Theatre shutting its doors last week after more than a century, though there is hope that this isn't the final act for the latter. 

And hopefully this won't be the end credits for the Highway 18 as well, a unique cinematic experience that shouldn't be lost. Interested parties should reach out to Barry Luce at Re/Max Commercial Realty at (920) 222-9307 or at 

Matt Mueller Culture Editor

As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.

When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.