Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Drive-In Theaters Becoming a Rarity on Today's Scene

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Drive-In Theaters Becoming a Rarity on Today's Scene

Article excerpt

They began as a fad, but by the 1950s drive-in movie theaters had become an institution. Not coincidentally, this was a time when teen-agers behind the wheel of their parents' cars were becoming an economic force.

The drive-in was the place to be alone with that certain someone. It was a place to take a family, get a night's entertainment and eat supper - all without having to hire a baby-sitter. The drive-in accommodated family values, rites of summer and teen-age romance.

Eventually, society's changing tastes did away with the drive-ins. One by one, the theaters were closed and demolished. Most of the outdoor theaters are just a memory or a gleam in the eye of today's baby boomers.

Escalating property values at drive-in sites and the popularity of new multiplex theaters led to the demise of almost a dozen of the old outdoor drive-ins in the St. Louis area.

Only one is left in the St. Louis area - the North Twin Drive-In, 9425 Lewis and Clark Boulevard.

"The popularity of the drive-in was due to the American family's love affair with the movies," said John L. Louis, vice president of Wehrenberg Theatres, which operates the North Twin.

The outdoor movie theater was a uniquely American tradition. The world's first drive-in movie theater was erected in New Jersey in 1933. By 1967, there were 3,384 drive-ins, which was almost one-third of all movie screens across the United States.

During the drive-in heyday of the 1950s, '60s and '70s, there was the St. Ann 4 Screen in North County, Ronnie's on South Lindbergh Boulevard, the I-44 Drive-In at Interstate 44 and Highway 141, the I-70 in St. Peters, the Holiday on Page Avenue, the I-270 in North County, the South Twin in Lemay, the 66 Park-In and the infamous Olympic on Page, which ended its existence by showing X-rated movies.

"The present site of the West County Shopping Center was also the Manchester Drive-In," said Louis. …

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