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Devil's Lake Drive-In Theatre


Address: 742 Manitou Road
City: Manitou Beach State: MI Zip: 49253 Phone: 517-547-5657  
County: Lenawee
Notes: Drive-In Church - AKA Michigan Drive-In.
Open from 3d week of June through Labor Day weekend.
U.S.127 South (Hudson) through Addison to Manitou Road.
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Open: 1951 (7-4-51) Closed: Open in 2003 Capacity: 200 Status: Open  
Owner History: Drive-in Ministries
Web Address: http://drive-inconcepts.com/
Number of visits to this page since Sept 2013: 762
 
 

11/22/2009 - Unknown
Devil''s Lake Drive-in closed last spring after both owners passed away. See this here thread http://driveins. suddenlaunch3. com/index. cgi?board=Dead&action=display&num=1212857771.

10/28/2009 - Tim
I do believe the drive-in is still open, but unfortunately Dr Lytle and his wife Olive both passed away a couple of years ago.
7/2/2006 - Detroit Free Press
Part 1 - June 24, 1996 - When the sun goes down over Devils Lake, the Christians come out to join in a summer ritual nearly half a century old. They douse themselves with insect repellent, pile in their cars and head on down to the Devils Lake Drive-In, 15 miles south of Jackson, for an evening of popcorn, big-screen entertainment and, at the climax of the show, the promise of salvation. Theyre greeted by the Rev. Terry Lytle, an evangelical pioneer who opened this theater in 1951, long before drive-in churches became a fad, and still is running it two decades after the craze began to fade. Every Saturday and Sunday night in the summer, this tall, lean preacher steps into a spotlight near the giant screen and greets the crowd.

His voice is surprisingly gentle, considering his many years of battling with the devil and the forces of nature, including three tornadoes that have leveled the place. Good evening and welcome tonight to the drive-in, Lytle said one recent Sunday night. Were here to share this very fact with you: God does love you! Ladd Corbin, a tenor from a nearby church, stepped into the spotlight to sing three solos about Gods love. Then Lytle signaled the projection booth, a tiny cinder block shelter squatting among the rows of parked cars.

A moment later, Barrett -- a suspense film about a Christian cop who prefers to use prayers instead of bullets -- flickered onto the big screen. Lytles drive-in is a time capsule: two acres of grassy, rural Americana, complete with well-scrubbed kids who play volleyball or toss Frisbees as the sun sets. Parents spread blankets for their families near their front bumpers, so smaller children can curl up and fall asleep on their laps. Its a safe place, where no one swears and adult monitors stroll among the cars.

Robert Royalty, a burly, retired truck driver, likes to patrol the grounds with his white poodle, Snuggles, tucked in the crook of his arm. The drive-in holds a real special place in my life -- because I was saved right here. If it werent for Terry Lytle and this place, I wouldnt have had the good life Ive lived, Royalty said, stroking Snuggles curls. Royaltys father was an abusive alcoholic who died of the effects of his drinking, but not before leading his young son into a similarly destructive pattern of heavy consumption.

In 1952, when Royalty was 17, he went to the drive-in with his girlfriend, Marilyn Ellis, to see a movie produced by Billy Graham, Oil Town USA. It was about the big oilfields and the big money men who run the oil business, Royalty recalled. And it told about this one guy who lost everything he had -- and thats when he found the Lord. As he sat in his beat-up 1938 Buick, watching the heart- wrenching story unfold on the screen, Royalty began to realize he might lose everything in his life as well -- if he kept on drinking so much.

At the end of the movie, he left his car and walked up to meet Lytle. And then, Terry read the Bible to me. We talked and we prayed, Royalty said. His life turned around.

He stopped drinking, joined a church and married his girlfriend. They now have three children and nine grandchildren. Thats the kind of dramatic, life-changing story that is the mainstay of Lytles drive-in ministry. On the screen that Sunday night, the Christian cop survived several suspenseful conflicts with criminals, mainly on the strength of his faith.

In the middle of the film, the cop had to face a half- crazed, barricaded gunman who was threatening to kill a hostage. Trying to save the hostage, the cop laid down his gun and slowly approached the gunmans apartment. At that moment, the screen went blank and Lytle stepped into the spotlight, knowing not a soul would drive away and leave the cop in mortal danger. Its intermission time at the drive-in, Lytle said.

Our concession stand is just around the corner and there are rest rooms there, too. As a recording of Amazing Grace played on the sound system, Lytle strolled through the cars to visit the projection booth. That was a pretty good spot to stop the film, Lytle told projectionist Craig Brooks with a grin. Even tornadoes cant stop us Lytle understands showmanship.

Its been his life. He was only 23 -- just two years after his ordination as a Baptist pastor -- when he met with a handful of followers from two tiny churches he served near Devils Lake. Together, they founded the nonprofit Drive-In Ministries Inc. A church member gave Lytle a long-term lease on a field at the south end of Devils Lake.

He showed his first film there on a portable screen in July 1951. The nations first drive-in theater had opened in Camden, N. J. , in 1933.

But by 1945, there still were fewer than 100. By the time Lytle launched his ministry, there were only about 1,000 open-air theaters and virtually all were commercial businesses. Lytles idea of saving peoples souls in the comfort of their cars was a novelty. The real drive-in boom -- when more than 4,000 theaters were operating -- ran from the late 1950s to the late 60s.

During the 60s, other evangelists around the country started drive-in churches, but most eventually faded or moved to permanent buildings. Lytle forged ahead. He opened a second, year-round, drive- in theater in St. Petersburg, Fla.

, which he still operates. He also commissioned the first of 10 mobile drive-in theaters: trucks with large screens that fold out on one side. Mission-minded volunteers still drive the trucks into rural fields, county fairs and inner-city parks throughout the United States and Mexico. Tornadoes devastated the Devils Lake Drive-In in 1953, 1954 and 1965, but Lytles followers helped him to rebuild each time.

This is a tornado alley -- but even tornadoes cant stop us, Lytle likes to say. Mainly, Lytle has kept it all going by living with his wife, Olive, on a shoestring. Admission to the drive-in is free. Lytle invites moviegoers to place donations in white envelopes they are given when they arrive, but they dont give much.

The collection on his June 15 opening night was $33. To supplement that, longtime supporters also send him money and volunteer their time. As a result, the walls of Lytles office are lined with unpainted drywall, his carpet is fading and the veneer on his desk is held in place with tape. During the summer, the Lytles live in a small apartment behind the Devils Lake screen.

For the winter, they have a home in Florida. They also save money by rerunning old movies. The movie about the cop was produced in 1976. We may have seen some of these movies two or three times out here -- and its amazing to me that I still can feel myself still getting into a lot of these movies, said Sheldon Lange, director of youth ministry at the Hillsdale Free Methodist Church.

Lange brought 21 teenagers to the drive-in along with piles of blankets, volleyballs and snacks. As he watched them toss balls back and forth, Lange said: This is the perfect medium for them. Kids are videots today. You go visit them in their homes and you cant talk until they turn off the television.

7/2/2006 - Detroit Free Press
Part 2 - A lot of hurting people The intermission ran for about 15 minutes. Then, Lytle checked his watch and told the projectionist: Well, I think its time to start again. The recorded music faded. Families returned to their cars or blankets. Soon, the Christian cop was back on the screen, bravely facing death, backed up by SWAT team snipers trying to catch the gunman in their crosshairs.

Just as it looked as if someone was going to die, the cop recited the Lords Prayer with the gunman and, almost miraculously, the man decided to peacefully turn over his loaded revolver and surrender. To celebrate this spiritual victory, the cop stood up in church the next Sunday and sang a solo praising Gods power. As the credits rolled, Lytle appeared in the spotlight one last time for a five-minute appeal to any moviegoers who might have felt God touch their hearts for the first time that night. Theres a lot of hurting people.

You might be one of those hurting people tonight, Lytle said. He talked about Gods love for a while, then asked: Right here tonight, why dont you just bow your heart to God? After a short prayer, he invited any freshly converted Christians to meet him at the projection booth and promised to give them a free New Testament and a book about Christianity. Cars began to roll away. As he has done for 46 years, Lytle strode across the hilly ground and stood, silhouetted in the headlights, slowly thumbing one of the paperback New Testaments he hoped to give away.

He waited. And waited. No new converts came to meet him that night. Overall, though, Lytle judged that it wasnt a bad evening.

The mosquitoes had been thick, but everyone seemed to have enough repellent. Rain had been forecast, but not a drop fell. Volunteers in the concession booth had burned the popcorn, but there were plenty of other snacks to satisfy the crowd. And Lytle knew there would be 11 other weekends before Labor Day when souls might be won at Devils Lake.

Just last night, on our opening night, three people received Christ here, Lytle said. Finally, he tucked away the unused New Testament in the booth, within easy reach for Saturday nights show. Recalling people such as Robert Royalty and his poodle Snuggles, Lytle concluded: Some nights I do stand out here in the dark, a little embarrassed because no one comes forward, but then I think about the lives this ministry has changed. And I know full well the importance of what were doing here.

6/8/2004 - Terry & Olive Lytle-founders/directors
We are the D. Lk. Dr. In.

it started in 1950; capacity-700 people which we had in the 1970s (had to rent side fields) The pics are beautiful and you did a great job of doing this. We have never closed even then in 1965 several tornadoes destroyed the facility. My Dad was killed in the church just up the road from the Dr.

In. The attendances now range from 150-200 on Saturdays (mid season) to 250+ on Sundays. our greatest attendances are on Sundays.

We send out over 100 news releases to churches, radios, and newspapers. Toledo Blade, Jackson (MI) Citizen Patriot, Adrian (MI) Telegram, Morenci (MI)Observer all are just a few of the papers carrying our N.

R. s. Again thanks for your coverage. We do not charge until Labor Day weekend.

Terry and Olive Lytle (It was a cornfield before we were given permission by the friend who owned the acreage to bull doze it into ramps. We use fm radio 89.

1 coverage. only within 100 yards each direction from the entrance and on the field.

1/6/2003 - WaterWinterWonderland
Reportedly being used to show religous movies, this site is unique in the repsect that the screen is built onto a building with living quarters. Very unusual location.
Devils Lake Drive-In Theatre - PROJECTION AND SCREEN - PHOTO FROM WATER WINTER WONDERLAND
PROJECTION AND SCREEN - PHOTO FROM WATER WINTER WONDERLAND
Devils Lake Drive-In Theatre - PROJECTION - PHOTO FROM WATER WINTER WONDERLAND
PROJECTION - PHOTO FROM WATER WINTER WONDERLAND
Devils Lake Drive-In Theatre - BUILDING - PHOTO FROM WATER WINTER WONDERLAND
BUILDING - PHOTO FROM WATER WINTER WONDERLAND
Devils Lake Drive-In Theatre - SCREEN - PHOTO FROM WATER WINTER WONDERLAND
SCREEN - PHOTO FROM WATER WINTER WONDERLAND
Devils Lake Drive-In Theatre - TICKET - PHOTO FROM WATER WINTER WONDERLAND
TICKET - PHOTO FROM WATER WINTER WONDERLAND
Devils Lake Drive-In Theatre - WHOLE LOT - PHOTO FROM WATER WINTER WONDERLAND
WHOLE LOT - PHOTO FROM WATER WINTER WONDERLAND
Devils Lake Drive-In Theatre - SIGN AND TICKET BOOTH - PHOTO FROM WATER WINTER WONDERLAND
SIGN AND TICKET BOOTH - PHOTO FROM WATER WINTER WONDERLAND
Devils Lake Drive-In Theatre - REAR OF SCREEN AND BUILDING WINTER 2004
REAR OF SCREEN AND BUILDING WINTER 2004
Devils Lake Drive-In Theatre - SIDE OF SCREEN AND BUILDING WINTER 2004
SIDE OF SCREEN AND BUILDING WINTER 2004
Devils Lake Drive-In Theatre - SIGN - PHOTO FROM WATER WINTER WONDERLAND
SIGN - PHOTO FROM WATER WINTER WONDERLAND
Devils Lake Drive-In Theatre - AERIAL - PHOTO FROM TERRASERVER
AERIAL - PHOTO FROM TERRASERVER
Devils Lake Drive-In Theatre - BIRDS EYE
BIRDS EYE

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