HomeDrive-In TheatersGratiot Drive-In Theatre - Roseville, MI

Gratiot Drive-In Theatre - Roseville MI

Address: 31900 Gratiot
City: Roseville
State: MI
Zip: 48026
County: Macomb
Open: 1948 (4-30-48) AD
Closed: 1984 (9-3-84)
Capacity: 1000
Owner History: Alex Schreiber, Gratiot Drive-In Theatres Co. (1957) - Community Theatres (1977)
Number of visits to this page: 36367
General Information:

From Cinema Treasures

Listed as being located in Fraser, to the north of Detroit, MI. The Gratiot Drive-In was designed by architect Ted Rogvoy and opened April 30, 1948 with Leon Errol and Joe Kirkwood Jr. in “Joe Palooka in the Knockout”. It featured “Free pony rides, merry-go-round and other playground amusements for the kids, a large restaurant that even warmed baby bottles on schedule for patrons”.

The back of the 115 feet tall screen tower featured a living curtain waterfall, illuminated at night by colored lights to simulate Niagara Falls. Car capacity is given as 1,056. A second screen was added on November 2, 1979. The Gratiot Drive-In showed its last movie on Labor Day of 1984. It was demolished shortly afterwards.

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Info Updates:
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.
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!!.
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.
 Photos:32
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 1950S THEATRE CATALOG
REFERENCE DATA 1950S 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 - OLD NEWS ARTICLE
OLD NEWS ARTICLE
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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