Longing to see a movie but uncomfortable going indoors? You may soon be able to park your vehicle in a lot at West Des Moines’ Valley West Mall and watch a flick outdoors.

John Putbrese, president of HD on the Go, is proposing to turn the parking lot south of the building that once housed Younkers department store into a drive-in movie venue. A mobile 10-foot-tall by 36-foot-wide LED screen would be located at the south end of the parking area with the screen facing the mall. Up to 119 vehicles would be able to park in the area; 57 seats for individuals not in vehicles would also be available.

Sound from the movie would be transmitted through an FM transmitter. Concessions would include a food truck and popcorn.

Putbrese, whose company operates out of Des Moines, this morning told the two City Council members on the council’s Development and Planning Subcommittee that prior to the outbreak of COVID, his company supplied outdoor screens to festivals, sporting events, concerts and other events across the Midwest.

“Last year we pivoted and started doing drive-in movies,” he said. “We went all over the Midwest doing drive-in movies. We felt it would be great to offer something to the Des Moines community as well.”

HD on the Go showed drive-in movies last year at Clive’s aquatic center and Urbandale’s library, he said.

Putbrese said he talked with managers of Valley West Mall, located at 1551 Valley West Drive, and they were supportive of the proposal. Mall officials couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

If the city approves his request, Putbrese said the drive-in venue would open May 20. He did not say how often movies would be shown.

Currently, the city’s zoning codes do not allow a drive-in theater to be located within developed areas of the city. If council members were amenable, changes could be made to the code that would allow the drive-in at the mall, city staff members said.

“I’d like to find a way to have this be an opportunity for folks in our community,” Council member Matt McKinney said.

In the past, the city has not allowed organizers of some events to erect LED screens, he said. “I want to make sure we are uniform in our application.”

Lynne Twedt, West Des Moines' development services director, said city staff members have been hesitant to approve other requests to put up LED screens because of the amount of advertising that would appear on them and the potential distraction to drivers of vehicles passing nearby. She said the staff would work with Putbrese on the amount of advertising that appears on the screen and on controlling the view of the screen from nearby streets.

Putbrese emphasized to the council that the screen would be pointed toward the mall. “We don’t want people to be able to come in and watch a movie that everyone else is paying for,” he said. “That’s why we placed it in this particular area – to alleviate that concern of people being able to drive down the road and see what’s going on … and lose their attention while driving.”

Putbrese said the drive-in likely would only be offered this year.

Mall owners in February made public a $278 million proposal to redevelop the site that would include the addition of more than 400 apartment units and the creation of an entertainment complex.

Council member Renee Hardman said she was supportive of the drive-in movie proposal.

“I think we have some runway still ahead of us for people to feel comfortable going inside a theater. This is temporary and it’s outdoors. … Other cities have figured this out; why should West Des Moines be any different?”