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Gratiot Drive-In Theatre


Address: 31900 Gratiot
City: Roseville State: MI Zip: 48026 Phone:  
County: Macomb
Notes: 2 Screens Reportedly cost $400,000 to build
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Open: 1948 (4-30-48) AD Closed: 1984 (9-3-84) Capacity: 1000 Status: Demolished  
Owner History: Alex Schreiber, Gratiot DriveIn Theatres Co.
Web Address: N/A
Number of visits to this page since Sept 2013: 6078
 
 

10/19/2014 - Bill Pytleski
First movie I ever saw at the Gratiot was the Beatles Help in '65. Mom stuffed all of us kids in the Wildcat, still a vivid memory today. But the real fun times were in high school in the mid '70s, either in my Nova, Mentz's Caprice, or Manders Hornet, with a couple of dudes in the trunk. We would go through a whole bag in one night Saw all of the classics first run. Holy Grail, Blazing Saddles, Groove Tube, the Cheerleaders, and many more.

Sad to here it's gone, I havent been back to Detroit in 18 yrs, so many of the old hangouts now gone, especially Tiger Stadium and Dodge Main. Now retired and living in the Sierra Nevada. A shout out to Dan DeFelice and of course Amazing John Szeles, nice to read your posts. PS Detroit needs to stop tearing down it's history!.

6/19/2014 - Jason Nunnold
I was only ten years old when the Gratiot Drive-In came down, but I do recall seeing quite a bit of movies there. The Last Starfighter, Neverending Story and Star Trek 3 were all summer of '84 releases that I saw at the Gratiot as a kid. only a few months before it closed. I grew up less than two miles away and always looked for the huge neon whenever we would drive around that area after dark. Years later I briefly worked with a guy who said he was once an assistant manager there.

He said that the place still did decent business up to the very end, but that the land was just too valuable. He seemed to believe that was the biggest factor in the sale, as opposed to lack of business. Looking at the pictures from 1948, it was literally in the middle of a field. Probably with nothing but farm land heading north until Mt.

Clemens. I can only imagine how much more valuable that parcel was by the mid 80s when everything around it had been completely suburbanized.
5/15/2014 - Michael Jankowski
In the 1950's and 60's my father and mother would take me to the Gratiot Drive-in Theatre It was a big deal to see a movie seated in my Dads car a1953 Oldsmobile. May dad would let me sit in the front seat between him and my mother in the 1950's. In the 60's I was bigger, so I had to sit in the back seat because my legs got to long I was sad to see the old place gone when I returned to Roseville years later. Great memories.

4/13/2014 - M Askew
I grew up in Roseville, attended school there, and enjoyed the movies at the Gratiot Drive In. My dad telling me about the water falling from the front of it in years earlier. I could hardly wait to see Grand Prix in the late 60s on the WIDE screen. In the winter you had with your speakers, portable heaters, they worked! Though I no longer live in the area or Michigan, I recall much of the old days.

7/5/2012 - Bruce Walrath
My GMa lived about 1/2 mile from the old drive-in back in the late 40's to early 70's. I remember the fire-works on the eve of the 4th in the late 50's. and remember walking past it on my way to school. Now ipast 66yrs I still have a warm place in the heart for old drive in.

11/1/2011 - Danny DeFelice
I remember in 1974 I got my first real job at The Gratiot Drive-In. What fond memories I have from that experience. At that time, it was owned by Community Theaters. I still have ALL of my paystubs. I think I made $1.

75 an hour. I saved up and bought my first car with that money. It was truly a sad time to it torn down.

5/13/2011 - George Linington
My father, William Linington, was a motion picture projectionist. One of their jobs was to shoot off the fireworks at 4th of July. He had this job for a number of years in the fifties and I would assist him. We would shoot from an area beyond the fence on the south side. It was down a small incline and we would bury the 3, 4 and 5 mortar tubes and set out the display in order of presentation.

Everything was done by hand. The tubes were loaded one at a time. The safety cap was removed and the fuse lit with a fusee (like a road flare). The time from lighting to rocket ignition was maybe 2 seconds.

It was quick work and the goal was a rocket in the air every 15-20 seconds. What a rush for a teenage boy!!.
2/2/2010 - Denise Chegash
Back in the 60''s my folks took us 5 kids pretty often as we were growing up. As I recall, there were always 2 or 3 cartoons for the kids before the fist of two movies began. Many times the sun hadnt completly set when they began, but that didnt bother anyone. The younger kids were in the back of the station wagon with snaks, pillows, and blankets, and usually were sleeping soundly, a short while after the 1st movie started. It was sooo cool.

In the 70''s when we could drive but didnt have any money, a few of us teens would jump in the trunk and try to get in while only paying for the driver but only one teen was a dead give away (duh) and they caught us (almost) every time. Finaly we found a big hole in the wall in the back and one dropped off the rest by the hole, then drove in with an empty trunk. We found each other a the consession stand and have a blast on the cheap! The pizza was awful! God I miss the Gratiot Drive In.

11/21/2009 - Fred Smith
I don''t know how got to this site, but glad I did. My father Fred J Smith was the first manager @ the Gratiot Drive-In. He also was manager @ the Bel Air Drive -In,also the Jewell theater in Mt Clemens , I my self worked @ the Punch & Judy in Grosse Pte while going to high school. Thank You.

site very interesting.

4/27/2008 - AMAZING JOHNATHAN
After 6 months of working non-stop on this labour of love project I can happily say that The Gratiot Drive-In lives again! Well, a small clone of it does anyway. I have recreated the drive-in that I spent many summers at watching movies and, for a short time, working at. I have stuck to the details building each aspect of the screen the surrounding fence and every other detail I could glean from web sites and people who worked there. So where is? In a giant warehouse in Las Vegas right at the end of one of the runways by the airport. Inside is where I store 20 classic cars and I thought it would be cool to display them for my friends in that setting but I really got carried away and made it fully functional.

It even has stars in the sky with cloud formations made from Planetarium projectors. When you sit in the cars and put the speaker in your window you feel like your at The Gratiot Drive-In. I have giant 80 foot murals on each side with rows of cars added so it looks like your in a long long row. I put in the concession stand and have all the same foods and candy they had.

I am comedian The Amazing Johnathan from Comedy Central and Letterman and I''m originally from Fraser going to Fraser High as John Szeles. It''s like having a place to go that reminds me of being young again. Last night I had David Copperfield and his crew to test it all out and they had a ball. I''ve made it interactive with flying saucers projected over the cars in the sky and anything else you want.

Check out the Website going up on the first of May at www. indoordrivein. com for more details. AJ.

6/5/2006 - William Jaeger
Look in the legendary photography book by Robert Frank--The Americans--and see an image of this drive-in as part of his commentary about America around 1955. And if anyone knows what movie is shown in the picture, post it here. Nice to see the Gratiot has lived on.
9/12/2004 - Macomb Daily
Old Gratiot Drive-In sign remains intact PUBLISHED: September 4, 2004 By Jameson Cook Macomb Daily Staff Writer Joe Niedzielski remembers the night of Oct. 14, 1984, for something other than most Detroit-area people recall it. While revelers celebrated the Detroit Tigers World Series victory by honking car horns and screaming from their vehicles on Gratiot Avenue, Niedzielski worked up a sweat within a couple hundred feet of the main drag. Niedzielski, who lived nearby, used his 1958 Edsel to drag heavy steel letters that had been perched on the top of the Gratiot Drive In theater screen. He was salvaging them from a demolition site.

Everyone is celebrating and here I am dragging these things, Niedzielski said. No one knew what I was doing. I was trying to preserve history. The last film was shown at the theater Labor Day 1984, which was Sept.

4, 20 years ago this weekend. The landmark on Gratiot near Masonic was razed within weeks. On demolition day, Niedzielski asked the construction crew chief if he could have the cursive art deco letters, which are several feet high, and made of steel and coated with porcelain. He said if I could take em away I could have em, he said.

Too heavy to carry, he attached a chain to his Edsels back bumper and dragged them from the demolition site. He left them there overnight while waiting for transportation in a trailer a couple of days later. While sitting there unguarded, the dot to the i in Gratiot was lifted. I couldnt believe someone would take it, he said.

Last fall the Roseville Historical Society was contacted by an elderly woman who was moving from her longtime home. While rummaging through family artifacts, the woman discovered the dot. Her son apparently had taken the dot. The woman gave it to the society, and it is being stored as part of the city library archives.

Its about as big as a laundry tub, society president Pat Chownyk said. Chownyk said she has known for years that Niedzielski saved the letters. The city allowed him to store them at the Department of Public Works building until 1989, about the time he purchased a St. Clair County home.

Chownyks interest piqued after the woman donated the dot, and the 20th anniversary of the theaters closing and demolition approached. Niedzielski, 49, last week moved the letters from a friends farm in Capac to his home in Kenockee Township, west of Port Huron. He plans to display them in his yard. Ive seen Roseville lose a lot of its past, the Roseville native said.

Niedzielski, who has a collection of Edsel cars, said the sign reminds him of the 1950s when he was a child, and automobiles, outdoor movie screens and waterfalls were bigger than life. He would like to see the letters restored, which could be expensive. Theyre in pretty bad shape, he said. They didnt take it down gently.

The letters crashed to the ground from more than 80 feet during demolition, he said. The letters are noteworthy because the Gratiot Drive In was a destination. Opened in 1948, its screen structure was stronger and more elaborate than most drive-ins, Niedzielski said. It featured a waterfall from the top, with the water cascading to a small pool on the ground, and was built to withstand strong winds.

According to a 1948 photo published in the Echoes of Macomb book published by The Macomb Daily in 2001, the first movie to play at the drive-in, on Friday, April 8, 1948, was Yellow Sky, starring Gregory Peck and Anne Baxter. Everyone from this whole area knew about the Gratiot Drive-In, Chownyk said. People came from Warren, Eastpointe, St. Clair Shores.

Chownyk remembered pranksters putting soap in the tub to produce a mountain of bubbles. The area in front of the screen served as a playground for youths. Chownyk recalled watching movies with her husband at the theater many times before and after they were married. They often took their children on weekends.

The kids would bed down in the back and watch the show, she said. It was cheap entertainment for the family. Today, a three-foot tall model replica of the old drive-in screen is on display in a glass case in the lobby between the Roseville City Hall and Roseville Library.

10/16/2003 - MichiganDriveIns.com
I still have fond memories of this old DI. The curious perpendicular screen was not a screen at all, but a barrier put up in the last years to keep light from a new strip mall next door from washing out the images on the screen. (Bob Alexander 4-1-03).
10/1/2003 - Karen P Hunt
In its last years, it also operated as a flea market during the weekend days. I remember being brought there as a kid. I used to love the sign, and I wished I could see it as a waterfall.
1/6/2003 - Drive-Ins.com
The Gratiot Drive-in defined the backdrop for cruising Gratiot from the 1950s through the early to mid 80s. It was an awesome site with its water fall and large Gratiot sign atop of the screen. It reminded me of the twentieth century fox movie sign with the drums and spotlights because it was so majestic. Chuck.
Gratiot Drive-In Theatre - FROM AMERICAN CLASSIC IMAGES
FROM AMERICAN CLASSIC IMAGES
Gratiot Drive-In Theatre - FROM DRIVEWAY
FROM DRIVEWAY
Gratiot Drive-In Theatre - ATTENDANT - PHOTO FROM RG
ATTENDANT - PHOTO FROM RG
Gratiot Drive-In Theatre - MARQUEE SHOT
MARQUEE SHOT
Gratiot Drive-In Theatre - LANES - PHOTO FROM RG
LANES - PHOTO FROM RG
Gratiot Drive-In Theatre - OLD SCREEN TOWER
OLD SCREEN TOWER
Gratiot Drive-In Theatre - SCREEN TOWER - PHOTO FROM RG
SCREEN TOWER - PHOTO FROM RG
Gratiot Drive-In Theatre - SCREEN TOWER CLOSED
SCREEN TOWER CLOSED
Gratiot Drive-In Theatre - AT NIGHT - PHOTO FROM RG
AT NIGHT - PHOTO FROM RG
Gratiot Drive-In Theatre - SCREEN AND DRIVEWAY - PHOTO FROM RG
SCREEN AND DRIVEWAY - PHOTO FROM RG
Gratiot Drive-In Theatre - SCREEN - PHOTO FROM RG
SCREEN - PHOTO FROM RG
Gratiot Drive-In Theatre - FROM THE AIR - PHOTO FROM RG
FROM THE AIR - PHOTO FROM RG
Gratiot Drive-In Theatre - ANOTHER AERIAL - PHOTO FROM RG
ANOTHER AERIAL - PHOTO FROM RG
Gratiot Drive-In Theatre - MARQUEE FROM TOP COURTESY ALAN FINCH
MARQUEE FROM TOP COURTESY ALAN FINCH
Gratiot Drive-In Theatre - MARQUEE FROM TOP COURTESY ALAN FINCH
MARQUEE FROM TOP COURTESY ALAN FINCH
Gratiot Drive-In Theatre - SCREEN IN SUNSET COURTESY ALAN FINCH
SCREEN IN SUNSET COURTESY ALAN FINCH
Gratiot Drive-In Theatre - LOT FROM TOP OF SCREEN COURTESY ALAN FINCH
LOT FROM TOP OF SCREEN COURTESY ALAN FINCH
Gratiot Drive-In Theatre - MARQUEE FROM TOP COURTESY ALAN FINCH
MARQUEE FROM TOP COURTESY ALAN FINCH
Gratiot Drive-In Theatre - DETROIT SKYLINE FROM TOP OF SCREEN COURTESY ALAN FINCH
DETROIT SKYLINE FROM TOP OF SCREEN COURTESY ALAN FINCH
Gratiot Drive-In Theatre - TICKET BOOTHS FROM 1952 THEATRE CATALOG
TICKET BOOTHS FROM 1952 THEATRE CATALOG
Gratiot Drive-In Theatre - REFERENCE DATA 1950
REFERENCE DATA 1950'S THEATRE CATALOG
Gratiot Drive-In Theatre - GRATIOT DRIVE IN FOOTINGS
GRATIOT DRIVE IN FOOTINGS
Gratiot Drive-In Theatre - UNUSUAL SCREEN ARRANGEMENT 1980S
UNUSUAL SCREEN ARRANGEMENT 1980S
Gratiot Drive-In Theatre - DEMO ON SCREEN
DEMO ON SCREEN
Gratiot Drive-In Theatre - GRATIOT SIGN 2005 COURTESY JOE NIEDZIELSKI
GRATIOT SIGN 2005 COURTESY JOE NIEDZIELSKI
Gratiot Drive-In Theatre - GRATIOT SIGN T COURTESY GRATIOT JOE
GRATIOT SIGN T COURTESY GRATIOT JOE
Gratiot Drive-In Theatre - THE GRATIOT NOW
THE GRATIOT NOW
Gratiot Drive-In Theatre - GRATIOT GRAND-OPENING AD 4-30-48 FROM MICHIGANDRIVEINS
GRATIOT GRAND-OPENING AD 4-30-48 FROM MICHIGANDRIVEINS
Gratiot Drive-In Theatre - AERIAL - PHOTO FROM TERRASERVER
AERIAL - PHOTO FROM TERRASERVER
Gratiot Drive-In Theatre - OLD AERIAL
OLD AERIAL
Gratiot Drive-In Theatre - AUG 47 ARTICLE FROM JIM THOMPSON
AUG 47 ARTICLE FROM JIM THOMPSON

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