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Jackson Drive-In Theatre


Address: 4400 Ann Arbor Rd
City: Jackson State: MI Zip: 49202 Phone:  
County: Jackson
Notes:
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Open: 1948 (4-17-48) AD Closed: <1988> Capacity: 700 Status: Demolished  
Owner History: Lawrence J. Aubry
Web Address: N/A
Number of visits to this page since Sept 2013: 1135
 
 

3/25/2013 - Jackson Citizen Patriot
JACKSON, MI – School is out and the temperatures are soaring. In Jackson’s not-too-distant past, this would be exactly the time that around sundown every night people would pack up their cars and head to a movie at one of the city’s two drive-in theaters. For nearly 40 years, the Jackson Drive-In, 4400 Ann Arbor Road, and the Bel-Air Drive-In, 2603 W. Michigan Ave. , provided cheap summertime entertainment.

Whether it was teenagers on a date at the “passion pit” or families with young kids looking for a night out on the town that didn’t require a babysitter, the drive-in theater was the place to be. “It was always a good time,” said 60-year-old Dave Kalen of Jackson, who worked as a projectionist at the Jackson Drive-In during the mid- to late-1970s. “Young people today don’t know what a joy it is to go to a drive-in. ” According to the experts, drive-ins started in 1933 in Camden, N.

J. , when Richard Hollingshead opened the first outdoor theater to appease smokers and others who wanted to be able to eat, drink, and talk during a movie. Fifteen years later, the drive-in theater arrived in Jackson with the opening of the Jackson Drive-In on April 17, 1948. It was one of 12 drive-ins in Michigan at the time, according to waterwinterwonderland.

com, a website dedicated to preserving images and memories of Michigan’s theaters, amusement parks and more. The Jackson Drive-In’s grand-opening advertisement in the Citizen Patriot bragged of “in-a-car speakers” and a 60-foot screen. On that screen was Roy Rogers in “Springtime in the Sierras,” a color cartoon and a first-run newsreel. Admission was 60 cents for adults and free for children younger than 12.

Patrons were advised to “come dressed as you like,” which made the drive-in theater the perfect place for families. There was no need for a babysitter, and kids could fidget as much as they liked without annoying others. They also could sack out in the back seat when they got tired. Young couples with small children dressed in pajamas quickly became the backbone of the industry.

And it was in this time after World War II, that the number of drive-in theaters grew. By 1954, there were 3,775 drive-in theaters nationwide, according to the National Association of Theater Owners. And a new audience of teenagers who had their own “wheels” had learned they were a prime date-night destination away from adult eyes. This was when drive-in theaters got their nickname of “passion pits.

” Amid this, on April 29, 1955, Jackson’s Bel-Air Drive-In opened with the slogan, “Come Out West. See Your Stars Under The Stars. ” Alan Ladd and Shelley Winters starred in “Saskatchewan,” and “Thunder Bay,” with James Stewart and Joanne Dru rounded out the double-feature. Admission was 50 cents for adults and free for children younger than 12.

Ladies received a free gift and kids got free candy. With their own charm and some unique advantages, drive-in theaters – including those in Jackson – flourished. Patrons could bring in their own food and drink, including alcoholic beverages. All else that was needed were pillows and blankets for the kids and a can of mosquito spray.

“You were charged per person for who was in the car,” Kalen said. “The kids figured out how to get around that by putting a few people in the trunk. ” In 1969, Mr. and Mrs.

E. L. Samuels, who owned both Jackson drive-in theaters for about 12 years, sold them to National Amusements of Boston, which also operated as Redstone Theaters Inc. As it did everywhere, attendance here started dropping off fast.

In the 1970s, R-rated horror and action-adventure movies took over the screens in an attempt to still draw teenagers. The advent of cable-TV in the 1980s, combined with battling bad weather, competition from video arcades and indoor theaters that had higher-tech projection equipment, brought the era of drive-in theaters to an end. Both of Jackson’s drive-ins closed at the end of the summer season in 1987. They’ve both been demolished.

“I’ll never forget it,” Kalen said. “When you were a kid and got your driver’s license, it was a privilege to go to the drive-in. It was cool. ” Tidbits • For a short time, Jackson had a third drive-in theater owned by Larry Dingee and John Buck.

An advertisement in the Citizen Patriot in July 1951 promoted their Hilltop Drive-In at U. S. 127 and Rives Junction Road. Another advertisement a year later showed its address as 7700 Lansing Ave.

There were no other ads after that, indicating the theater was only in business for two seasons. • The Albion Drive-In was located at 16462 E. Michigan Ave. in Parma Township from 1950-86.

In July 1983, a few Springport Township residents tried to get the Parma Township Board to shut it down because it was showing X-rated films. The signatures on their petition were mostly from people who lived outside the township, so the board declined to act. The theater was required to put up blinder lights, though, so its movies didn’t distract drivers on I-94. • On the other hand, the Devil’s Lake Drive-In in Manitou Beach showed Christian movies.

It thrived until 2007 when its owners Terry and Olive Lytle, who died six weeks apart. • The Hillsdale Drive-In, opened in 1948, was located at 3271 W. Carleton Road. A Tractor Supply Co.

store now stands on the site. • Addison also had the Starlite Drive-In at 8350 U. S. 127 until the mid- to late-1960s.

A gas company now occupies its site. • Michigan had only eight drive-in theaters left by the end of 2011, according to the United Drive-In Theatre Owners Association. The Capri Drive-In Theater in Coldwater is one of them. There were only 366 drive-ins left nationwide, it said.

8/10/2011 - Dave Kalen
I was a projectionist here as well as the Michigan Theatre in Jackson. I have recently moved back to Jackson and remember the site well. I remember showing one of the other projectionists how to keep the show running when the film broke below the sound pick ups. He didn't think it could be done. When I got there, they didn't have the changeover mechanism working, so I set up a pulley system to raise and douse the light source from the projectors.

10/20/2003 - WaterWinterWonderland
A closer look revealed that the moonbeam light in the rear of the lot is still standing.
4/8/2003 - Steve Krebill
I also think there are two or three tall pine trees remaining that used to stand right in front of the screen at the main entrance.
1/6/2003 - WaterWinterWonderland
Mostly empty - some trace of the driveways remain.
Jackson Drive-In Theatre - OLD PICTURE
OLD PICTURE
Jackson Drive-In Theatre - OLD PICTURE
OLD PICTURE
Jackson Drive-In Theatre - OLD PICTURE
OLD PICTURE
Jackson Drive-In Theatre - OLD PICTURE
OLD PICTURE
Jackson Drive-In Theatre - OLD PICTURE
OLD PICTURE
Jackson Drive-In Theatre - LATE 80S JACKSON DEMO FROM NEWS ARTICLE COURTESY HAL
LATE 80S JACKSON DEMO FROM NEWS ARTICLE COURTESY HAL
Jackson Drive-In Theatre - OLD PICTURE
OLD PICTURE
Jackson Drive-In Theatre - OLD PICTURE
OLD PICTURE
Jackson Drive-In Theatre - MOONBEAM LIGHT
MOONBEAM LIGHT
Jackson Drive-In Theatre - MOONBEAM LIGHT
MOONBEAM LIGHT
Jackson Drive-In Theatre - DRIVEWAY - PHOTO FROM WATER WINTER WONDERLAND
DRIVEWAY - PHOTO FROM WATER WINTER WONDERLAND
Jackson Drive-In Theatre - DRIVEWAY
DRIVEWAY
Jackson Drive-In Theatre - ANOTHER DRIVEWAY - PHOTO FROM WATER WINTER WONDERLAND
ANOTHER DRIVEWAY - PHOTO FROM WATER WINTER WONDERLAND
Jackson Drive-In Theatre - ANOTHER VIEW - PHOTO FROM WATER WINTER WONDERLAND
ANOTHER VIEW - PHOTO FROM WATER WINTER WONDERLAND
Jackson Drive-In Theatre - NOW AN EMPTY LOT - PHOTO FROM WATER WINTER WONDERLAND
NOW AN EMPTY LOT - PHOTO FROM WATER WINTER WONDERLAND
Jackson Drive-In Theatre - LOT - PHOTO FROM WATER WINTER WONDERLAND
LOT - PHOTO FROM WATER WINTER WONDERLAND
Jackson Drive-In Theatre - OLD AD FROM RON GROSS
OLD AD FROM RON GROSS
Jackson Drive-In Theatre - TICKETS - PHOTO FROM RG
TICKETS - PHOTO FROM RG
Jackson Drive-In Theatre - AERIAL
AERIAL
Jackson Drive-In Theatre - BIRDS EYE
BIRDS EYE

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