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Charles Trefts took this photo in 1945, and it’s available with “No known copyright restrictions” at the State Historical Society of Missouri.
According to the Washington County Historical Society, this drive-in opened as the Dixie Auto Vu, “built by a Mr. Thornton in about 1949.” The WCHS said it was bought by Merv & Mary Reber about 1952, and they sold it to Westate Theaters around 1989.
The 1955 Motion Picture Almanac listed it as the Dixie Auto Vu, capacity 200, owner Ivan H. Hunt. The 1955-56 Theatre Catalog had the capacity at 240, owner R. M. Reber.
Here is the original version of this photo by Dorothea Lange. Its listing says that it’s Copyright the Dorothea Lange Collection, Oakland Museum of California, City of Oakland. That page guesses ca. 1956 for the date, but I think that rockyroadz' analysis of the movies shown is more likely to be accurate.
This photo, complete with staple, was from the March 1949 issue of Albuquerque Progress, published by the Albuquerque National Bank. I don’t think there was a copyright notice included in that issue, which would put it in the public domain. I found it at New Mexico Digital Collections.
The last year that the Trail advertised regular movies in The Amarillo Globe Times was 1970. By 1971, it was showing X-rated movies. On January 27, 1977, the Globe Times reported that the Trail was still active and still X-rated.
John Margolies shot a photo of the Trail in 1977, and it still had an Open sign visible in the box office window. That picture is available at the Library of Congress.
I would love to know the source of this 1977 photo, because it is almost identical to a photo by John Margolies. The clouds are the same shapes but shifted, and the tree’s shadow has moved. It seems likely that Margolies shot this within a few minutes of the photo in the Library of Congress.
Specifically, it’s this 1982 photo, part of the John Margolies Roadside America Photograph Archive at the Library of Congress, effectively in the public domain.
Robert A. Christensen took this photo in 1977, and reprint rights are available from the Palace of the Governors Photo Archives, New Mexico History Museum, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
This photo was taken by Chester H. Liebs in 1982, and its copyright has been transferred to the Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico.
I found more details. This photo was taken by William J. Lucas and is part of the William J. Lucas Route 66 Photograph Collection, now available at the
Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico. That institution says on its web site that “Copyright to the original photographs has been transfered to the CSWR.”
In a 2011 book named “Fruita,” authors Denise and Steve Hight wrote that Michael Kiefer was the Majestic’s first owner in 1910. From there, the ownership went to Samuel and Lottie Sturtevant, then to Fred and Carrie Fraser, and then to Robert and Melba Walker. The Walkers were the last ones mentioned, with no discussion of the Laumer or Boughton eras suggested by the 1958 Boxoffice note above.
The Hights wrote that the theater closed in the 1960s.
The May 28, 1973 issue of Boxoffice had a long story about Walt Hefner and his “do-it-yourself” drive-in. Quoting an article in the Spokane Chronicle, Boxoffice wrote: “Asked to comment on the portions of the Starlite he helped build, Hefner replied: ‘It would be easier to say what I didn’t do.’” Professionals were involved in installing the 40x90-foot steel screen and in making sure his plumbing and electrical work was up to building codes. It took Hefner two years to complete the project, which cost him about $103,000.
Anthony L. Vazquez-Hernandez and more recently moviejs1944 uploaded images of a postcard with text and a photo of the sign all showing Starlight spelled correctly. That undated postcard must have been from 1952 or later because it mentioned the expanded 1000-car capacity and specified two-cent postage. Yet the mostly reliable Theatre Catalog switched its spelling from Starlight (1949-50 edition) to the Starlite (1952-56 editions). The Motion Picture Almanacs always called it the Starlight, but the Film Daily Year Book always showed Starlite.
What did the Colorado Springs Gazette say? In a word, both. The first reference I could find was March 27, 1948, quoted 50 years later as Starlight. The theater’s ads in 1960 occasionally said Starlight but were mostly Starlite, and all later editorial references spelled it that way. Did the sign in the photo ever get changed?
Details on who owned the Starlite when it flooded, from The Exhibitor, Jan. 16, 1952: “Rex Stevenson, Trans-California, is a happy man. The city is putting a main thoroughfare (the future Spruce Ave.) from El Camino, Cal., right past the screen-tower marquee of the Starlight (sic) Drive-In, South San Francisco.” It added that Trans-California had closed this Starlight for the winter along with Belmont’s Starlight and the Mission Drive-In.
Was this the full front of the postcard that Anthony L. Vazquez-Hernandez uploaded a while back?
I sure wish I could see a photo of this drive-in’s marquee, because I really don’t know how to spell its name. I wonder whether that sign ever changed.
In 1957, Boxoffice referred to it as the Sky-Vu and the Sky-Vue. The Motion Picture Almanac always called it the Sky Vu.
In its ads in the Colorado Springs Gazette, it was the Sky-View on July 6, 1960, then the Sky View later that month. On June 15, 1962, it was the Sky Vue and the Sky View on the same page. Mostly Sky View in 1968, then Sky Vue in 1969 – did its sign change then?
In editorial copy in the Gazette, an April 9, 1966 story had Sky Vue in the headline but Sky-View in the body. A month later, it was Sky-View in the headline but Sky-Vue in the body. 1967 stories said Sky View, but it was mostly Sky Vue from 1968 on. The Gazette’s final stories in 1984-85 said Sky Vue, so that’s the right (final) name for CT to use. But I still wonder what the sign looked like.
The Salina (KS) Journal, Aug. 2, 2007: “Dean Lavern Zimmerman, 90, Lakewood, died Tuesday, July 31, 2007. Mr. Zimmerman was born Dec. 19, 1916, in Russell, Kan. He owned and operated the Sky Vue Drive-In theater for 35 years.”
NPR’s Fresh Air had a 1994 interview with western swing vocalist Don Walser, repeated on Sept. 22, 2006, where he talked about performing at the Sky-Vue on the same night as Buddy Holly.
Walser said, “There was a drive-in theater there in Lamesa, Texas, Skeet Noret had this old drive-in called the Sky-Vue – and, in fact, it’s still operating. It’s one of the last ones that hadn’t been closed down. And he had a big projection room there that he – and he had a little stage on top of it, and he’d bring in guys like Hall Nicks and Buddy Holly, and they would have them come down and play at the Sky-Vue between the movies, you know, and I would share bills with one of them.”
The Gazette, July 29, 1990: “The drive-in debuted in Colorado Springs on June 30, 1948, when The Starlite opened with "That’s My Man,” a horse-racing flick starring Don Ameche.
It had a capacity of 650 cars on 30 acres, 2 ½ miles east of town on U.S. Highway 24. It proudly boasted a screen atop a tower fashioned from 54 tons of steel – enough to build a 50-room hotel, according to slick-tongued promoters."
The Independent Film Journal had a very lengthy article about Tom Smith and the Multiscope in its Sept. 19, 1953 issue, available at the Internet Archive. Some highlights:
The Multiscope sold out most nights, with the show starting as soon as all 40 slots were occupied. “I had no idea that this small working model would turn into a regular schedule run theatre,” Smith said.
He thought it would be cheap to build because the Multiscope needed “very little underground wire, no large structures, no screen tower, no buildings over seven feet in height, no ramping and very little grading.” And the low profile made it harder for storms to damage.
He planned to adapt to show wide-screen and CinemaScope “as soon as possible,” but was busy that year with the business of booking films and running the drive-in.
The 66 must have widened its screen in the 1953-54 offseason. Independent Film Journal, May 29. 1954: “The 66 Drive-In opened
with a new panoramic screen and a free
Independent Film Journal, May 1, 1954: “Wehrenberg Theas. have taken a 30-year
lease on the land adjoining their 66 Park-In
Theatre in St. L. County with plans to add
more ramps and increase its capacity from
800 to 1200 cars. They have also placed
order for immediate installation of an Ezell
glass surface screen for this project.”
Boxoffice, Oct. 3, 1953: “MOUNT OLIVE, ILL. – Louis Odorizzi, owner of the Sunset Drive-In on U.S. 66 near here has leased the New Grand Theatre from Mrs. Josie Lawson and plans to open that 536-seat theatre about October 15 or when the Sunset closes its season. The New Grand has been dark for several months. It had been operated for some time by Joe Katz of Benld, Ill., also under lease from Mrs. Lawson, but Katz failed to make it show a profit, apparently.”
Independent Film Journal, Nov. 14, 1953: “The 536-seat Grand Theatre at Mount Olive, Ill. reopened Oct 25 under manager of Louis Odorizzi, who also owns and operates the Sunset Drive-In near there.”
Same drive-in? Independent Film Journal, Sept. 18, 1954: “Atomic Drive-In at Kevil, Ky., operating for some time with 16 mm films, has been converted to 35 mm operation. Blaine Sykes is owner.”