HomeDrive-In TheatersBel Air Drive-In Theatre - Jackson, MI

Bel Air Drive-In Theatre - Jackson MI

Address: 2603 W. Michigan Ave
City: Jackson
State: MI
Zip: 49202
County: Jackson
Open: 1955 (4-29-55) AD
Closed: N/A
Capacity: 700
Owner History: National Amusements/Redstone Theatres
Number of visits to this page: 17728
General Information:

From Cinema Treasures

The Bel-Air Drive-In opened on April 29, 1955 with accommodation for 550 cars, single screen ozoner. It was operated by J. Phillips and Co-Operative Ct. Later it was operated by National Amusements. It was closed in 1987 and has since been demolished.

Info Updates:
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.
10/20/2003 - WaterWinterWonderland
A closer look has revealed a few more traces of the old drive-in, namely some screen foundations, lane markers and ramps.

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Bel Air Drive-In Theatre - Screen Foundation
Screen Foundation
Bel Air Drive-In Theatre - Screen Foundation
Screen Foundation
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Poles And Lane Markers
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Bel Air Drive-In Theatre - Entrance
Bel Air Drive-In Theatre - Now - Photo From Water Winter Wonderland
Now - Photo From Water Winter Wonderland
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Driveway - Photo From Water Winter Wonderland
Bel Air Drive-In Theatre - Lot - Photo From Water Winter Wonderland
Lot - Photo From Water Winter Wonderland
Bel Air Drive-In Theatre - Old Ad From Ron Gross
Old Ad From Ron Gross
Bel Air Drive-In Theatre - Aerial
Bel Air Drive-In Theatre - Birds Eye
Birds Eye
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