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Porter Blanchard had seen drive-in theaters before Montana Gov. Steve Bullock issued a statewide stay-at-home order in March, and he remembered noticing how secluded people could be in their cars.

After the state shut down, Blanchard, a senior at Manhattan High School, decided to use the skills he’d learned in his accounting and entrepreneurship classes to create his own drive-in theater on his family’s pasture.

“There are needs in the economy that need to be filled right now,” Blanchard said. “If you can find a need, you can fill it with skills.”

Porter’s mother Keeley Blanchard said Porter came up with the drive-in theater idea while he was brainstorming topics for an assignment in an entrepreneurship class. Students in the class were asked to write a detailed plan that would help them launch their own businesses.

Porter initially considered writing his plan about a snow cone or potato ice cream business. Then he realized he could use his family’s pasture to house a drive-in movie theater.

Lexi Glaus teaches Porter’s entrepreneurship class at Manhattan High School. She bases course lessons on Youth Entrepreneurs’ curriculum, which encourages experiential, activity-driven learning, according to Youth Entrepreneurs Educator Outreach Director Jim Masker.

Glaus initially hoped students would launch the businesses they’d written about, but when classes at Manhattan High moved online, she decided she wouldn’t require students to follow through.

Porter decided he still wanted to try. He worked with Glaus to apply for a $300 loan from Youth Entrepreneurs, but investors gave him $500, Keeley said. Within the first three showings, Porter had enough money to pay investors back.

“This business became an idea when we realized how serious it was that we couldn’t go outside, or into the public. And then after my dad’s business shut down our family realized we needed to do something in order to keep our family afloat,” he wrote in his business plan.

Porter named his business “The Pasture,” and he’s been projecting movies on a canvas screen. So far he’s shown five movies — “Here Comes the Boom,” “Jumanji 2,” “Sandlot,” “Mom’s Night Out” and “Secondhand Lions.”

“Rudy” was also going to be featured, but it started to rain just as the movie began playing. Viewers were offered refunds, Keeley said.

Porter said Glaus inspired him to start up his business, and he used the financial skills he learned in Glaus’ accounting class this fall. “She [Glaus] taught me a ton about insurance and LLCs,” he said.

“His idea was completely his own, and he found the opportunity,” Glaus said. She said her only role was teaching the class and giving him a business plan outline.

Glaus said that after Porter got the loan, he submitted a pitch to Youth Entrepreneurs’ The Big Idea competition, which offers winners up to $20,000 in awards. Porter took first place overall, winning $6,000.

“I didn’t think I was going to win it at all,” Blanchard said.

Porter said his family has been instrumental in setting up and running the theater, and he doesn’t think he could have done it without their help.

Keeley said the family plans to continue running the theater after Porter graduates and leaves on a two-year mission trip to Guatemala this August. They charge customers $20 per car for each screening, and 20 to 30 cars typically attend each movie.

Porter plans to use his award to help pay for his upcoming trip.

Keeley said the family has thought about ways to keep people coming to the theater after the state reopens. They’ve considered showing Halloween movies and making a haunted pasture walk. Keeley said she initially thought the family would stop showing movies, but now they want to keep doing it.

“It’s been fun seeing people excited about supporting the youth,” she said.

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Helena Dore can be reached at or at 582-2628.