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Some pictures and ads….
Check the link later for more details to come.
One needs to be careful about judging the car capacity from press releases. They seem to always overstate the car capcity or size…..perhaps to gain an edge with the movie bookers representing them in Dallas, or maybe just to sound more impressive to the public. The Motion Picture Almanacs and the International Motion Picture Almanacs of the time consistently ranked the Kingsville drive-ins as:
King’s – 300
Rancho – 300
Brahma – 250
HiWay – 250 or 300
I’m not saying that was the gospel, but the press numbers are usually considerably higher than other sources.
I need to get back to the Kleberg library and look into the 60s, 70s and 80s to see what can be learned about the drive-ins under different ownership and the closing years. I understand the paper occasionally re-runs a historical piece about the Carpas and the drive-ins. The locals rave about that piece.
Here are some photos and newspaper ads for the Corpus aka Thunderbird…
Here are some newspaper ads.
Pictures and newspaper ads seen here….
Pictures and newspaper ads seen here……..
The ‘Brahma’ celebrated it’s grand opening on Friday May 2, 1952 with it’s first feature “To Please a Lady” starring Clark Gable. The ‘Hiway’ just north of town advertised until March 26, 1952, when they announced “The Hiway Will Close After March 31. Watch for the Grand Opening of the BRAHMA DRIVE-IN about April 15th.” It was the third of four drive-ins in Kingsville opened by Joseph and Kyle.
Pictures and newspaper articles and ads seen here…..
As I commented above, the exact opening date was June 23, 1949. Here is some evidnece I have researched myself. This is part of a larger work that is very much a “work-in-progress”. I added some details to the King’s Drive-in section for the sake of posting this now. Other drive-ins are incomplete.
There is an H-E-B grocery store on this site today (2010).
Although this theater opened in 1952, it did not advertise along with the other Corpus Christi drive-ins in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times until June of 1961. Perhaps because it was the first Spanish language operation or because it was a non-union operation. The Buccaneer was the target of several dynamite explosions from the time it was being constructed in early 1952 and over the next few years before Corpus Christi police in 1955 arrested several projectionists from the IATSE Local 604 in connection with the bombings. Is it just a coincidence that dynamite was used in the construction of drive-in theaters? A 50s article about Victoria’s Lone Tree drive-in opening talked about how dynamite was used to quickly make the holes for the hundreds of speaker posts. They used the already laid speaker wires to detonate small charges of dynamite creating the perfect holes for the posts. Interesting. I bet the drive-in construction was also a union deal back then.
The Gulf opened Friday Jan 21, 1949 by U&E (Underwood & Ezell) as a 500 car capacity, $225,000 drive-in. It operated for the first year or so under the U&E banner eventually shifting to the Ezell & Assoc. banner. WG Underwood had already passed in June of 1948. The first feature shown was “A Date With Judy” starring Wallace Beery.
The theater was upgraded in the spring of 1952 to a 750 car capacity. The mural was changed from a sea gull to a mermaid at that time. At some point in the mid 50s Claude Ezell sold out to the Corpus Christi Theaters / Robb-Rowley / Rowley United / United Artists circuit who continued to operate it until 1968 when they leased it to T. “Bob” Cuellar who began to operate The Gulf drive-in, The Buccaneer drive-in and The Tower theater as Spanish language theaters under the same banner.
There is a Home Depot at this site now (2010).
The Ayers had it’s grand opening on Sep 1, 1947. There was a full page ad and a newspaper article in the Aug 29, 1947 Corpus Christi Caller-Times newspaper. The first movie shown was “Miracle on 34th Street”.
In August of 2009, the Solid Rock Church went through a remodeling and they auctioned off many of the old theater seats.
Thanks Matt54. I need to figure out the rules for adding theaters properly. I have info for the following drive-ins that need a page:
In Corpus Christi – Texas, Boulevard, Cuddihy, Osage, Twin Palms, Surf, Bel-Aire (aka 62&Lexington, Capri, Lexington), Viking Twin.
In Alice – Coyote, Ranch
In Robstown – Starlite (aka Robstown), Airport, San Pedro
In Portland – Portland Drive-in
In Aransas Pass – Tarpon, Trail
In Rockport – Cove
In Refugio – Rancho
In Sinton – Sinton Drive-in
In Beeville – Beeville, Texas
In Victoria – Tejas / Aztec
In Pleasanton – Trail
I also have info for the existing theater pages:
In Corpus Christi – The Corpus (aka Thunderbird), Gulf, Buccaneer
In Kingsville – Hi-Way, King’s, Brahma, Rancho
In Alice – Buckhorn
In Mathis – Mathis Drive-in
In Beeville – Bronco (aka Broncho)
In Port Lavaca – Port Twin
In Victoria – Twin Ranch (aka Gemini), Lone Tree
The Thunderbird opened under the name the Corpus Drive-in in Oct 22, 1948. Owned initially by Richter and Newman, it changed hands and changed names sometime in the 1960s. The Corpus was constructed of concrete and steel to replace the first drive-in in Texas, the Texas, which was made of wood in 1939, and was showing it’s age by 1948. The Corpus was located at 4910 Leopard across from where Leopard and Baldwin intersect. The Texas had been a few blocks down Leopard just past Navigation. The Texas (1939), the Boulevard (1942) and the Corpus (1948) operated together for Southwest Theaters, or perhaps Lonestar Amusement at the time, for a few weeks before the Texas was closed for good, having it’s last ad on Nov 5, 1948.
The first feature for the Corpus in 1948 was “Coroner’s Creek” with Randolph Scott.
The Corpus had a capacity of 300 cars until it changed to the Thunderbird with a capacity of 600 cars.
The Thunderbird stopped showing films in the mid 1980s and continued as a flea market for many years. It was the last screen standing in Corpus Christi when it was demolished in May of 1997 to make room for industrial businesses and warehouses. The concrete fence surrounding the perimeter of the drive-in still stands today around those industrial buildings. Pictures to come….
I am working on the photo links. Thanks.
Here is The Texas Drive-in from The Doc MacGregor photo collection
Here is an aerial from around 1971 barely showing The Texas “scars”
Here is the next aerial in the series showing that the Corpus Drive-in, aka Thunderbird, was just a few blocks away….
The Texas, the first permanent drive-in in Texas and one of the earliest in the coountry, was opened by Nick and Pete Katsaris, Charles A Richter and Leon Newman just past Navigation on Leopard (SH 9). It opened on Nov 11, 1939 as opposed to the often published March 1939. Google Earth historical imagery in 1956 shows the “scars” at the location which is now the Greyhound Racetrack kennels. Richter and Newman aka Southwest Theaters opened the next drive-in for Corpus, the Boulevard Drive-in, on Lexington Ave where The Trade Center is today at SPID and Richter in Feb 1942, right after WWII started for us. The two drive-ins operated together until the Texas was old and falling apart and Richter and Newman built The Corpus Drive-in in Oct 1948. The Corpus would someday be renamed the Thunderbird. It was located a few blocks closer to town on Leopard where Baldwin and Leopard intersect. The three drive-ins operated together for about a month when The texas had it’s last advertisement int the Caller-Times on Nov 5, 1948.
My next post will contain links to photos.
Does anyone have information about Refugio’s “Rancho Drive-in”? I have interviewed the locals and I have a general idea of the location, without any historical imagery or top maps to verify exactly.
I do know that Video Independent Theaters operated it, at least at one point. Also……
Aug 15, 1953 Billboard Magazine…..“As part of the third anniversary celebration of the Rancho Drive-in, Refugio, Tex., Marvin Gollehon, manager, admitted each car, regardless of how many there were in it, at the special price of 50 cents….”
How do we get a page for the Cove Drive-in in Rockport?
Jul 18, 1953 Billboard says…. “Cove Drive-in has been opened by Ed Bernard at Rockport, Tex., where he also owns the Surf Theater……”
April 30, 1955 Billboard magazine says…“CinemaScope has been installed at the Cove Drive-in at Rockport, Tex., according to owner Ed Bernard…”
New York Times Sep 12, 1961 Hurricane Carla…“Downtown Rockport, a town of 3,000 near Corpus Christi, was swamped with two feet of water. A drive-in theater was blown away.”
Does anyone have information about The Sinton drive-in. I have the location from Google Earth historical imagery on Hwy 77 just south of the town. I don’t know when it opened or who operated it.
Sep 25, 1954 Billboard Magazine says…“John Reed, manager of the Mathis Drive In, Mathis, Tex., has announced that CinemaScope has been installed at the drive in…”.
Oct 9, 1954 Billboard Magazine says…“Leon Glasscock, head of the Glasscock Theater Circuit, has announced that CinemaScope is being installed in his seven theaters and two drive-ins that comprise the circuit. Drive-ins include the Mathis Drive-in, Mathis Tex., and the Trail Drive-in at Pleasonton, Tex….”
I got recent photos of the Buckhorn (Oct 9, 2010). I hope to have links soon.
I also got photos of the remains of the concession/projection booth of ‘The Coyote’ drive-in in Alice. This one was also operated by ‘The Buckhorn’ owner H.C. Gunter.
I also got photos of ‘The Ranch’ drive-in location. Not much there anymore. This one was once operated by the Garza Brothers and Solis Brothers. It is remembered around Alice as the one that showed spanish language films.
Robstown had at least three drive-ins as follows:
Ruben Chavez Dr at John Wayne Dr – ‘The Airport Drive-in’ opened in Fall 1955 by Ray and Gilbert Garza (aka Garza Brothers). It started as a Spanish language drive-in.
Western Ave at W Ave D – ‘The San Pedro Drive-in’ opened in late 1953 or early 1954 by Arnulfo Gonzales and Tito Sandoval, managed by Tito Sandoval. It started with a two language double feature policy.
Hwy 44 – ‘The Starlite Drive-in’ and later as ‘The Robstown Drive-in’ when Hurricane Celia blew it down. It was operated by Robb-Rowley, Rowley United and finally United Artists. I’m not 100% sure that the ‘The Starlite’ and ‘The Robstown’ are one and the same…..I hope to have definitive evidence soon. I do know that ‘The Robstown’ was blown down by Celia and I know that it was on Hwy 44, and I know that a drive-in existed at that location before 1956 when it probably was not called ‘The Robstown’.