Drive-ins have been on the road to extinction for the last 60 years. In Ohio they have dwindled to only 24 drive-ins from a peak of 190 in the late 1960s.
Drive-ins back in the day were a popular family destination. Mom would cook a big bag of popcorn, Dad would load the kids up in the car, and everyone was off to creating some of their best memories ever.
Kids could even play outside before the movie started at the drive-in with many having their own playgrounds. You could put your blanket on the hood of the car or in the back of the truck bed and eat popcorn and candy and watch a movie while outdoors. It doesn’t get much better than that if you are a kid (or an adult for that matter). It was almost like going on vacation for one night.
Well, due to the current pandemic those family “one night vacations” are on their way back. Drive-ins are actually coming back strong now and in different and creative ways, also.
Going out for dinner and a movie with the family is no simple task anymore with all the closings, restrictions and COVID-19 social distancing.
As a result, drive-in theaters have been making this big comeback and popping up all over the country as a safe alternative to the traditional movie theater.
Many business owners who have had to shut down their store fronts due to COVID-19 restrictions are now re-opening old drive-ins or creating make-shift drive-ins in parking lots to make ends meet.
Even concert promoters are turning to the drive-in as a safe alternative to traditional concert venues that have all but shut down to a standstill.
Country singer Garth Brooks recently performed a live concert for his fans that was shown on more than 300 drive-in screens across the nation. On July 25, Blake Shelton, with Gwen Stefani and Trace Adkins, will do the same at drive-ins across America. Many top bands and musicians are jumping on board now with drive-in concerts, performing on screen and even performing live in person at the actual drive-in venue.
In Pigeon Forge at the Smoky Mountains there are plans for an “Indoor Dome Drive-in” called the August Moon Theatre, Bar & Grill, complete with real classic cars to sit in, a panoramic starry sky overhead, pathways and even real trees.
And finally, mega retailer Walmart has just announced it is converting 160 of its U.S. store parking lots into drive-in movie theaters. Locations and movie titles have not yet been announced. The event will run through October and is projected to have more than 300 showings.
Ohio ranks third in the nation for number of drive-ins per state with 24. New York ranks No. 1 and Pennsylvania ranks No. 2.
The Starlight Auto Theater in Akron was the first drive-in to open in Ohio. It opened in 1937 and was one of the first 10 drive-ins in the country.
The Lynn Auto Theater in Strasburg, near Canton, is the oldest currently operating drive-in Ohio and the second oldest in the world.
Below is a complete listing of all drive-ins in Ohio:
Sidney Auto-Vue Drive-in (Sidney)
The Sidney Auto-Vue Drive-in opened in 1956 and is a single screen drive-in with a capacity of about 450 cars. 1409 Fourth Ave., Sidney.
Hi-Road Drive-in (Kenton)
The Kenton Drive-in opened back in 1950. In 1999 it was refurbished and received several improvements including a larger screen and a new marquee. 8059 U.S. Highway 68, North Kenton.
Starlight Drive-in (Maria Stein)
Opened in 1950, the Starlite Drive-in is a smaller, single screen drive-in seasonally showing double features. 1889 Route 127, Maria Stein.
Melody 49 Twin Drive-in (Brookville)
The Melody 49 Twin Drive-in opened in 1966 as a single screen drive-in theater. In 1987 it added a second screen to become a twin drive-in. 7606 Pleasant Plains Road, Brookville.
Dixie Twin Drive-in (Vandalia)
The Dixie Drive-in was originally opened as a single screen drive-in but added a second screen later down the line. 6201 North Dixie Drive, Vandalia.
South Drive-in (Columbus)
The Columbus South Drive-in is a huge two screen, 1,100 car drive-in theater. It also hosts large flea markets on the weekends. 3050 South High St., Columbus.
Skyview Cruise-in Theatre (Lancaster)
One of Ohio’s oldest drive-ins, the Skyview Cruise-in Theatre has been operating since 1948. 2420 E. Main St., Lancaster.
Tiffin Field of Dreams Drive-in (Tiffin)
The Tiffin Field of Dreams Drive-in has been opened since 1949 and has been open ever since. 4041 North Route 53, Tiffin.
Starlite Drive-in (Cincinnati)
The Starlite Drive-in is a single screen outdoor theater that was opened in 1955. It is located at 2255 Ohio Pike, Amelia.
Holiday Auto Theatre (Hamilton)
The Holiday Auto Theatre opened in 1948 as the Hamilton Outdoor Theatre. The current owners purchased it in 1985 and made major improvements. 1816 Oxford Highway, Hamilton.
Lynn Auto Theatre (Strasburg)
The Lynn Auto Theatre was built in 1937, which makes it Ohio’s oldest operating drive-in and the second oldest operating drive-in in the world. 9735 state Route 250 NW, Strasburg.
Magic City Drive-in (Cleveland)
Built in 1953, the Magic City Drive-in started as a single screen drive-in theater. A second screen was added in the mid-1970s, making it the twin screen. 5602 S. Cleveland-Massillon Road, Barberton.
Mayfield Road Drive-in (Chardon)
Built in 1969, the Mayfield Road Drive-in remains open seasonally, showing double features seven nights a week. 12100 State Road 322 Chardon.
Liberty Center Field of Dreams Drive-in (Liberty Center)
The Liberty Center Field of Dreams Drive-in was built new, on farmland in 2007 by the Saunders Family. It originally opened as a single screen. 602 County Road 6, Liberty Center.
Springmill Drive-in (Mansfield)
The Springmill Drive-in is an 800 capacity car theater and opened in 1950. It is a twin screen drive-in located in Mansfield. 1040 Springmill St., Mansfield.
Van-Del Drive-in (Middle Point)
A triple screen theater, The Van-Del Drive-in has been operating in the same location under different names since 1948. 19986 Lincoln Highway, Middle Point.
Auto-O-Rama Drive-in Theatre (North Ridgeville)
Originally opened as a single screen theater, The Auto-O-Rama Drive-in was opened in 1965 and has been operated continuously by the same family ever since. 33395 Lorain Road, North Ridgeville.
Star View Drive-in (Sandusky)
The Star View Drive-in is a single screen drive-in theater located in Norwalk, just outside of Sandusky. 2083 Route 20, West Norwalk.
Sundance Kid Drive-in (Oregon)
One of Ohio’s oldest operating drive-ins in Ohio, the Sundance Kid Drive-in Theatre opened in 1949 originally as a single screen theater. Star View Drive-in 4500 Navarre Ave., Oregon.
Midway Drive-in (Ravenna)
The Midway Drive-in has been operating since 1955. It is a two screen theater with a 500 car capacity. It charges $20 a carload. 2736 Route 59, Ravenna.
Blue Sky Drive-in (Wadsworth)
The Blue Sky Drive-in is a single screen drive-in theater located in Wadsworth. It is one of the older remaining drive-in theaters in Ohio. 959 Broad St., Wadsworth.
Elm Road Triple Drive-in (Warren)
Opened in 1950 as a single screen theater, the Elm Road Triple Drive-in is a three screen drive-in theater located in Warren. 1895 Elm Road NE, Warren.
Skyway Twin Drive-in (Warren)
The Skyway Drive-in is a twin screen drive-in theater located in Warren. The Skyway was built in 1949 and opened as a single screen theater. 1805 N. Leavitt Road North West, Warren.
Winter Drive-in (Wintersville)
Built in 1969, the Winter Drive has expanded a few times and is now a four screen drive-in theater, which can hold up to 1,000 cars. 400 Luray Drive, Wintersville.
Ron Brohm is a regular contributor to this newspaper.