The Cruise-In Auto Theatre opened on April 17, 1948, screening the 1947 comedy/musical “The Shocking Miss Pilgrim” with Betty Grable and Dick Haymes. The Auto Theatre was opened by Dave and Lou Clemmer, who also operated the Miami Cruise-In Auto Theatre in Miamisburg, Ohio. The parking ramps capacity was 400 cars with ‘Catering Service’ where attendants would deliver concession items to your car.
The new auto theatre used Simplex Projection equipment, Altec Sound system along with in-a-car speakers. To entertain the children they had swings, sandboxes, teeter totters and a trapeze. They also had free pony rides for the kids before the show. In 1959 Lou Clemmer sold the drive-in to a guy named Reibel. In 1966 it was sold to Robert Hudson. At the start of the 1968 season the auto theatre was renamed to the Eaton Drive-In. Hudson later sold it in 1971. In 1971 apparently the drive-in was foreclosed on by the bank.
John Holkan and Peter Turlukis bought it from the bank in 1971 and renamed the auto theatre to Cinema 35 Drive-In. As attendance began to decline, first R-rated, then X-rated, movies began to be shown. In April of 1975 complaints from nearby neighbors prompted Preble County Sheriff Jan Spitler to obtain a warrant to close the theatre. Theatre operator John Holkan was arrested on a charge of pandering obscenity. Two films were confiscated, “Deep Throat” and “The Devil in Miss Jones”.
Unfortunately, neighbors behind the theatre could see the films. H. Chester Hartman, and his wife Beverly, wrote a letter to the newspaper explaining their views “The screen is clearly visible to most homes on the street (Woodside Drive). Front yards, back yards, living room and bedroom windows are exposed to the sexual activity on the screen. Many children are not allowed to play outside in the summer evening due to these movies… This is a violation of our rights and of our children’s rights. If these movies must be shown, they should be shown indoors”.
The charges against the theatre were thrown out in Eaton court when it was learned that the judge who had issued the warrant had not viewed the films in question. A previous ruling by the U. S. Supreme Court required that a judge had to view the alleged obscene films before a search warrant could be issued. The day after the verdict the films were again being shown. As the cost of VCR’s came down and the accessibility to X-rated tapes became easier to buy or rent, many of Cinema 35’s patrons elected to screen this type of film at home. Cinema 35 Drive-In’s last season was in 1986. The drive-in was demolished and the concession/projector building was enlarged and made into a restaurant. In 2016 the restaurant is not being used and the property is used as a truck repair facility.
Some Source Material: Greater Dayton Drive-In Theatres by Curt Dalton.