Source: 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.
The Heritage Motel was also built on this site after the drive-in went down.
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