Springfield Drive-In

1949 E. Sunshine Street,
Springfield, MO 65804

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Springfield Drive-In

Opened in 1948, the city grew to surround the theatre on three sides with businesses and restaurants. To the rear, at the time of it’s closing in 1978, there was still a neighborhood. Losing the 30 year lease renewal in 1977, the property was razed in late-October 1978 to build an office complex called Corporate Square.

It had a fully enclosed wooded screen tower of the typical genre, with a white picket fence enclosing the playground in the front. Looney Tunes characters were painted on the tower wall facing the playground, along with hardwood free-standing cartoon characters in concrete buckets placed here and there.

The concession stand, which had been added to at least four times over the years, was dual-laned and simply decorated. White tiles on the walls, off-white with blue, yellow and red speckled tiles were on the floor, the kitchen was stainless steel. The ceiling was very low, you could reach up and touch it without even straightening your arm. The original managers office was off the lobby and the city managers office was in the rear with a private entrance.

In early-1970, the city manager moved to the Queen City Twin, and the manager moved into the empty office. The former office became inventory storage. The projection booth was below ground level and featured twin carbon-arcs. Another somewhat unusual feature were the two sets of outdoor seating on either side of the rose garden fronting the booth. It was wired for sound, so you could sit and wait for someone in the concession or cool off if your car was just too hot on a hot summer night.

It was a wonderful theatre that started out with first run films in the 1930’s, went to second run films in the 1950’s and sadly ended it’s reign hosting the rather benign R-rated features of the 1970’s.

Contributed by Dwayne Butcher

Recent comments (view all 4 comments)

Tp on May 14, 2018 at 11:38 am

The 40 Highway Drive In Theater in Kansas City was first drive in to open the state in may 1942. The news paper article in picture section says 1948 and 1938 as opening date.

NeonMichael on March 19, 2019 at 1:58 pm

A special section of the April 10, 1961 issue of Boxoffice had a photo spread of the playground equipment at the Springfield.

Darrell D. Manes, Commonwealth Theatres city manager, said the Springfield “enjoys the patronage of a very well-to-do clientele. Most of the cars on its ramps are Cadillacs and Chryslers, Manes commented.”


NeonMichael on May 13, 2019 at 8:46 pm

The first appearance of a Springfield MO drive-in in the Film Daily Year Book was the “Park-In” in the 1948 edition.

The “Drive-In” was in the first Theatre Catalog drive-in list in the 1948-49 edition. Selected Theatre Catalog list mentions:

  • 1948-49: Drive-In, capacity 600, owner Rush Wilhoit, S. M. Taft Amusement Corp.
  • 1949-50: Springfield, 400, Commonwealth Theatres Ct.
  • 1952: Springfield, 600, Commonwealth Ths. Ct.
  • 1955-56: Springfield, 520, Commonwealth Ths. Ct.

The “Drive-In” was in the first Motion Picture Almanac drive-in list in the 1950-51 edition. All MPA list mentions:

  • 1950-56: Drive-In, capacity 350, owner S. M. Taft Amusement Corp.
  • 1957: off the list (at a page break, probably a layout typo)
  • 1958-59: Drive-In, 350, S. M. Taft Corp.
  • 1960-66: Springfield, 350, Commonwealth
  • 1967-76: Springfield, 350 (no owner info)
  • 1977-79: Springfield, 400, Commonwealth
  • 1980: off the list

Sure enough, in the Theatre Circuits section of the MPAs, Commonwealth showed the Drive-In / Springfield Drive-In in its holdings beginning in that same 1950-51 edition, even though it took the drive-in list a decade to notice.

davidcoppock on May 14, 2019 at 4:53 am

Demolished in late october 1978.

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