Source: 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.
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. Both of Jackson’s drive-ins closed at the end of the summer season in 1987. They’ve both been demolished.