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Ionia Drive-In Theatre


Address: 3525 S. State St
City: Ionia State: MI Zip: 48846 Phone:  
County: Ionia
Notes:
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Open: 1953 (6-18-53) AD Closed: (1985) Capacity: 300 Status: Demolished  
Owner History: Wisper-Wetsman
Web Address: N/A
Number of visits to this page since Sept 2013: 2133
 
 

8/10/2011 - Rich
As Archie Bunker said those were the days my friend! In the 50's I spent many Friday and Saturday nights at the Ionia Drive in Theater. On Dollar Night we'd load the car with kids, other nights I'd take my Dads 53 Buick which would hold 4 teenagers in the trunk and one on the floor in the back seat under a blanket, we'd all chip in 20 cents each, I'd drive in and pay the buck admission, park and open the trunk and allow the “illegal’s out to join me in the car. Many were my dates taken to the drive in, sometimes resulting in steamy windows! Damn those were good times. ! Before the movie started and during intermission, we’d play “spotlight tag” on the screen. Do you guys remember that? One rainy night I brought the speaker inside the car and rolled the window up against the cord.

When I drove out I forgot to replace the speaker resulting in ripping it away from the post. Too scared and embarrassed to tell the theater management, I just drove off and kept it. In the 60’s, after I’d married and had a family, the wife would make a large bag of popcorn and a large thermos of Cool Aid, we’d put the kids in their PJ’s , an air mattress in the back of our 62 Ford station wagon and have a family night out at the movies. After an hour or so the kids would fall asleep and mom & dad would relive “old times“! The 50’s and early 60”s were the “Golden Age “ of drive in theaters and also of America, I wish the youth of today could experience the security, simplicity, and optimism of those days.

A time when we knew who we were, where we were going, and had unlimited confidence in our future, our country and our leaders. Much has changed in the last 60 years, indeed “those were the days”!.
8/17/2007 - Andrew Wilson AKA The Librarian
Theater to Open Here on June 18 Ionia Sentinel-Standard - Tuesday, June 16, 1953 - Page 1 Announcement was made by Arthur D Chipman and his son Russell of greenville of the grand opening Thursday, June 18, of the new Ionia Drive-In Theater. The new open air theater is located south of Ionia on M-66 opposite of the Ionia County Airport. 350 cars can be accomodated, with scientific location of parking spaces so that every car will command a full view of the 50 x 54 foot screen. The picture and sound system is fully modern and the Motiograph sound system with eight miles of underground wiring provides each car with seperate loud speakers and its own volume control. The treater, one of three operated by the firm, features a concession stand serving all the popular items, and four changes of program weekly with the pictures starting at dusk.

According to Russell Chipman the season is for about 13 weeks during the summer. Visitors are welcome at any time prior to the Thursday opening. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Drive-In Theater Opens Here Tonight Ionia County News - Thursday, June 18, 1953 - Page 8 The formal opening of the Ionia Drive-In Theatre, located three miles south of Ionia on M-66, will take place with a special Technicolor premier. Owners Arthur Chipman and Russell A.

Chipman report that construction work has been completed on the new $50,000 structure, and two outstanding Technicolor features have been obtained for the opening only. Featured will be Allen Young and Dinah Shore in Aaron Slick from Pumpkin Creek and Sterling Hayden and Forest Tucker in The Flaming Feather. Show starts at dusk. R.

A Chipman pointed out advantages of the drive-in theatre includes a concession stand at popular prices, an individual speaker in every car, children under 12 free with parents and the fact that customers can see a complete showstarting as late as 10:30pm. Everyone is urged to come as they are, without bothering to dress up. Policy of the new theatre will be to operate 7 nights a week, rain or fair, with a special midnight show on Saturdays. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ High Wind Cause $40,000 Damage at Ionia Drive-In.

Wind Loss Also in Other Area. Ionia Sentinel Standard - Tuesday June 18, 1957 - Page 1 (EXCERPT!) Severe winds and thunder storms lashed out at Ionia county during the night and early Tuesday morning with considerable damage reported. Most of the wind damage occured about 3 a. m.

with the damage being concentrated in a one mile strip from the drive-in theater on M-66 south to the Bennett road. An estimated $40,000 damage was caused to the Ionia drive-in theater, it was reported by the owner, Arthur Chipman. The large screen was hurled to the ground crushing the ticket booth and a number of speakers were also destroyed. Chipman said the screen had withstood eighty mile winds before and could not understand how anything less thatn a tornado could have done the damage which was caused.

The large poles supporting the screen were twisted at the base. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Wind and Rain Lash County Early Tuesday Ionia County News - Thursday June 20, 1957 - Page 1 (EXCERPT!) Three separate wind storms lashed Ionia County Monday Evening June 17 and early Tuesday morning causing estimated damages to run into many thousands of dollars.

The most severely hit was a section west of M-66 south of Ionia between Tuttle and Bennett roads, when a wind and rain storm struck about 4am on Tuesday. Pictured here, top, is Russ Chipman owner of the Ionia Drive in Theatre, which suffered the greatest loss of the storm, as he stands near the sign which describes the condition of the giant screen at the drive-in. The bottom scene shows the scattered debris from the screen strewn over the area. Chipman reported the damaged might amount to over the $20,000 figure, including the loss of the screen, damage to the ticket office and a number of speaker units which were damaged.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Drive-In Theatre Reopens with a Modern Screen Ionia County News - Thursday September 19, 1957 - Page 9 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Drive-In to Open with Free Show Ionia Sentinel-standard - April 2, 1958, Page 1 Ionia Drive-In Theater, located south of Ionia on M-66 near the Ionia County airport will have it's grand re-opening Thursday Night. Everyone will be admitted free of charge on the opening night according to Russell Chipman co-owner.

The first show will start at 7:30 and everyone is requested to be there early to avoid the rush. Big or little, tall of short, the Chipman's want everyone to come as their guests. Two full length pictures and a Cinemascope cartoon, all in color will feature the grand re-opening. The first picture is Prize of Gold with Richard Widemark, and the second is a horse racing story Blue Blood.

Ionia open air theater goers had a short season last year when the large screen was destroyed by wind shortly after the theater opened in the spring. After being closed all summer it re-opened on September 15* with one of the newest and most modern screens in the state. That last one has a date error, but that's how it appeared.

8/17/2007 - Andrew Wilson AKA The Librarian
The Ionia opened with the box screen in 1953 which measured 50(W) x 54(H) and I have not found a photo of that screen. In 1956 the grand re-opening ad from April 13th mentions a new cinemascope (my term, I don't have the ad in front of me) screen that is the largest in Ionia County! 1957 the steel screen was erected, according to one article it could show a picture 85 x 40 and was 54 feet high, it is mentioned either in an article or ad that the 57 screen was larger than the one destroyed. That makes three screens in five years. The Chipmans owned three DI's in the area The Ionia, the Greenville and one other. After the tornado/wind storm knocked down the Ionia, The Chipman's ould give a free soda to anyone who came to the Greenville and could prove that they were from Ionia.

There is a great ad that I need to scan for the Greenville that shows the Gone with the wind marquee. The Chipmans owned the Ionia until sometime in the early 70's. Land Platt maps say the owner from 1973 until it closed was the Howell Theatre Co. The original wood tower was supposed to be able to withstand 80 mile an hour winds.

The steel tower could withstand 90 mile an hour winds.
1/6/2003 - Drive-Ins.com
Gone, the site is now a motel and a modular home vendor. Bobby Peacock.
Ionia Drive-In Theatre - FROM ANDREW THE LIBRIARIAN
FROM ANDREW THE LIBRIARIAN
Ionia Drive-In Theatre - FROM ANDREW THE LIBRIARIAN
FROM ANDREW THE LIBRIARIAN
Ionia Drive-In Theatre - FROM ANDREW THE LIBRIARIAN
FROM ANDREW THE LIBRIARIAN
Ionia Drive-In Theatre - FROM ANDREW THE LIBRIARIAN
FROM ANDREW THE LIBRIARIAN
Ionia Drive-In Theatre - FROM ANDREW THE LIBRIARIAN
FROM ANDREW THE LIBRIARIAN
Ionia Drive-In Theatre - FROM ANDREW THE LIBRIARIAN
FROM ANDREW THE LIBRIARIAN
Ionia Drive-In Theatre - FROM ANDREW THE LIBRIARIAN
FROM ANDREW THE LIBRIARIAN
Ionia Drive-In Theatre - FROM ANDREW THE LIBRIARIAN
FROM ANDREW THE LIBRIARIAN
Ionia Drive-In Theatre - FROM ANDREW THE LIBRIARIAN
FROM ANDREW THE LIBRIARIAN
Ionia Drive-In Theatre - FROM ANDREW THE LIBRIARIAN
FROM ANDREW THE LIBRIARIAN
Ionia Drive-In Theatre - NOW - PHOTO FROM WATER WINTER WONDERLAND
NOW - PHOTO FROM WATER WINTER WONDERLAND
Ionia Drive-In Theatre - NOW FOR MODULAR HOME SALES - PHOTO FROM WATER WINTER WONDERLAND
NOW FOR MODULAR HOME SALES - PHOTO FROM WATER WINTER WONDERLAND
Ionia Drive-In Theatre - AERIAL
AERIAL
Ionia Drive-In Theatre - AERIAL - PHOTO FROM TERRASERVER
AERIAL - PHOTO FROM TERRASERVER

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