Spud Drive-In

2175 S. Highway 33,
Driggs, ID 83422

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Spud Drive-In

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The Spud Drive-In is an old fashion drive-in theater where you can watch a movie in the shadow of the Teton Mountains. The theater opened on July 3, 1953 with a capacity of 76 cars. The current owners, Richard and Dawnelle Wood, bought it from Leo and Gladys Davis in 1987.

The drive-in theater, which has always been known as the Spud, has a unique marquee – a giant potato on a flatbed truck. The Woods had seen postcards with the a huge potato on a semi and thought it would be fun to duplicate it, only smaller — since they raise seed potatoes in Teton Valley and seed potatoes are small. They looked for rocks that would work, but there was the problem of accessing and moving it. Then Richard found an ad in the paper that read Ugly Old Truck, runs well. Sure enough it was ugly. They brought it home and gave it a new paint job. A friend, Larry Hull, helped build the spud. They blew insulation on a wood frame and then covered it in cement. It’s unbelievable how many pictures are taken of that ugly old truck and its potato.

Contributed by Grant Smith

Recent comments (view all 13 comments)

Ajardine
Ajardine on March 28, 2008 at 9:21 am

The Spud Drive In has the best hamburgers I have ever had. The carmel popcorn is to die for. But don’t take my word for it try one on for size.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on February 19, 2009 at 12:23 pm

For the record, that style of truck is called a COE, Cab Over Engine. There is a collector following for such trucks. They are not always flatbeds.
There were tow-trucks and other models that had the driver situated over the engine. Hence the pug nose.

TLSLOEWS
TLSLOEWS on February 2, 2010 at 8:36 pm

Cool name for a drive in.

TLSLOEWS
TLSLOEWS on February 2, 2010 at 8:36 pm

You do not see that every day.

SteveSwanson
SteveSwanson on May 16, 2012 at 8:16 am

Interesting that the website is down, but the phone message is current. Running first run films on a 2-day schedule.

jwmovies
jwmovies on December 4, 2012 at 5:05 pm

The above address is incorrect. The address for this drive-in is 2175 South Highway 33.

Chris1982
Chris1982 on November 20, 2014 at 5:12 pm

A article from PreservationNationBlog: Anyone who owns — or has tried to buy — a camera any time in the past 10 years knows that digital photography has replaced film almost entirely. This transformation has not been limited to still pictures; digital is now king at the movies, too, which has created challenges at many older movie theaters.

The Spud Drive-In in Driggs, Idaho, is no exception. The theater, which opened in 1953 (and celebrates its 60th birthday this week) has long been a beloved part of the community, but has faced closure twice in recent years — first from management changes, and then from the transition to digital projection.

Local fans rallied with Facebook outreach that reached thousands, and to date enough “Save the Spud” t-shirts have been sold to cover half the cost of a new digital projector. (They’re still available — get ‘em while they’re hot!)

When asked about the transition, the Spud’s manager (and former co-owner) Dawnelle Mangum found both pluses and minuses to the change. On the upside, the new projector’s bulb, at 6,000 watts, is twice as powerful as its predecessor, allowing them to start movies 10 minutes earlier. She says that “10 minutes is big — 9:40 as opposed to 9:50 for our longest day.”

The trade-off, Mangum says, is in the frequent updates the projector requires (which she says are fairly equivalent to a typical computer) and the life expectancy of the new machine.

“The projector we replaced for hummed along for well over 60 years,” she says. “It was purchased used in 1953. No digital projector has that kind of life expectancy.”

Saving the Spud as a drive-in theater has also preserved one of its most beloved attractions: a giant potato on the back of a truck, which Roadside America calls “a novelty postcard come to life in three dimensions.” And indeed, Mangum and her former husband — who designed and built the potato and set it on the back of a 1946 flat bed truck in 1990 — were inspired by classic postcards.

She takes great pride in its ongoing appeal: “People in the valley claim that more pictures are taken of the truck with the potato on it than the Teton Mountains here on the west of our valley.”

Mangum and fans of the Spud are planning a big celebration for the drive-in’s birthday this week, featuring hula hoops and slinkies (two other American icons that arrived on the scene in 1953). And thanks to those devoted fans, the Spud has many more birthdays to come.

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