There is no doubt that we love our cars and watching a movie is our standard fallback plan for the weekend and from this love emerged the concept of drive-ins that rose to popularity in the 1950’s and still exist in certain parts of the country. Drive-ins are very much American as it can get and it offers a great way for the people to enjoy their favorite movies at affordable rates and also bringing the community together on a sticky summer night which has become a rarity these days. Let’s take a quick look at some of the lost drive-ins in West Michigan.
Portage Drive-in Theatre
Location: 5528 Portage Rd Kalamazoo, MI
Opened in 1948 in the Kalamazoo City, Portage Drive-In Theatre offered a great way for the audience to enjoy a movie experience like no other. Located right across the street from the Kalamazoo Airport it was the coolest drive-in that also had stepped ramps. The drive-in also had a tiered parking which was quite unique in its time. The drive-in was owned by Butterfield Theatres and could accommodate 400 patrons at a time. The drive in was closed and torn down in 1983 and Sam’s Club Store building was built on the site. Later, it moved to a new location and State Farm Insurance moved into the building.
M-104 Drive-in Theatre
Location: 14950 Cleveland Spring Lake, MI
Opened in 1955 in the Ottawa county and Spring Lake city, the M-104 Drive-in Theatre has remained one of the popular drive-in theatres that had two screens. Initially, the drive-in had one screen, but in 1979 the second screen was added which didn’t last longer and was shut down in 1982. Many claim that it was also called as the Oasis Drive-in, but there is still no clarity about it. The drive-in would definitely pull in crowds for the Saturday Night movies.
Cascade Drive-in Theatre
Location: 5050 28th St SE Cascade, MI
Opened in 1969, Cascade Drive-in Theatre in the Kent County was located in Cascade. The drive-in property was owned by National Amusements and Redstone. It was certainly one of the largest drive-in theatres in the United States with the capacity of 2500 patrons. When it opened it was the first twin drive-in for the state and had screens on either side of the 2,300 car area. It also featured a cafeteria style refreshment stand and also featured a kiddie’s playground. The drive-in was closed in the year 1992 and now a Costco and Target sit on the site where Cinema Drive-In and Showcase Cinema stood.
Plainfield Drive-in Theatre
Location: 4900 Plainfield Ave NE Grand Rapids, MI
Opened in 1957, Plainfield Drive-in Theatre was owned by Jack Loeks Theatres and would accommodate 1000 people. The theatre certainly offered a great experience for the audience offering them wonderful memories. The drive-in theatre was in the Kent County and located in Grand Rapids offering a perfect weekend movie experience. Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and Gods Half Acre and Splendor in the Grass were some of the movies that were shown here. The theatre was closed in 1990 and later demolished. The site is now a residential street called Cinema.
Vista Drive-in Theatre
Location: 4500 Lake Michigan Dr Walker, MI
Opened in 1955, Vista Drive-in Theatre was owned by Butterfield Theatres and had the capacity of 1300 people. The drive-in was in Kent County and located in the Walker city offering audiences a great movie experience on weekends. The drive-in was also popular for the horror movies that were screened here. This was Butterfield’s only wholly-owned drive-in and therefore it was easier for them to handle the management the way they wanted. The theatre also had snack bar stall and ramps. The drive-in theatre was closed in 1978 and was later demolished. Currently, there is a big Meijer store along with a bunch of other stores that sit on the property.
Beltline 3 Drive-in Theatre
Location: 1400 West 28th St Wyoming, MI
Opened in 1948, Beltline 3 Drive-in Theatre was owned by Jack Loeks Theatres and had the capacity of 850 at its peak time. The drive-in offered quality movie experience to the audiences who would want to have a great time watching some of the best movies. The theatre showed Bill Murray’s Stripes and midnight shows of Animal House and Rocky Horror.
The drive-in theatre was situated on a farmland.
The theatre closed in 1987 and was demolished later on. Studio 28 was built up on the same site but was later demolished in 2014.
The site currently is an empty parking lot and holds a project by the City of Wyoming. Visit www.28west.org
Stadium Drive-in Theatre
Location: 2500 Turner Ave NW Grand Rapids, MI
Opened in 1952, Stadium Drive-in Theatre was once part of the old Stadium Arena that was built in 1950. The drive-in used some part of the arena’s parking lot and the drive-in screen was attached to the arena building. The drive-in theatre has offered a great way for the people to experience movies on the weekends. The drive-in theatre was closed in 1960 and the Stadium Arena was later renovated and renamed as Deltaplex in 1998. The 4500 seat arena hosted AC/DC tour in 2000 and it still provides a great place for concerts and world tours.
Stardust Drive-in Theatre
Location: 5566 Divison St S Grand Rapids, MI
Opened in 1984, the theatre was owned by H.J. Ochs and Triangle DriveIn Company. The theatre was in Kent County and located in Grand Rapids. The drive-in theatre provided a great opportunity for the people to enjoy movies in the open and had the capacity of 600 people. The drive-in theatre also started booking live concerts during intermission including performances by Bobby Vee. The theatre had a large screen tower and a large crane boom was installed later on. The drive-in theatre closed somewhere in the mid 70s. People can now find an RV dealer called Midway on the same location.
Woodland Drive-in Theatre
Location: 3290 28th St SE Kentwood, MI 49508
Opened in 1969, Woodland Drive-in Theatre was owned by Jack Loeks Theatres and had the capacity of 800 people. The theatre was in the Kent County and located in the city of Kentwood. The theatre also was a drive-in church allowing the local to worship and praise God. The theatre would also entertain people of Kentwood with some of the popular movies of those times. However, the drive-in theatre was closed in 1988 and later the area was taken by Lowes, a national home improvement store, and the lot has been split by the 29th Street and the rear half remains vacant. There’s another Goodwill store across from Lowes that sits where the screen once sat.
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