River Breeze Drive-In

6110 Asheville Highway,
Knoxville, TN 37924

300 cars

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River Breeze Drive-In

The River Breeze Drive-In was located on Highway 11 East (Asheville Highway) just east of Knoxville. The name comes from the fact that it was located next to the Holston River. If you were coming from Knoxville, the River Breeze was the first right turn after you crossed the Holston River Bridge on Highway 11 East. The screen was actually right in front of the bridge, so that you could see the traffic go by behind the screen while watching the movie.

The River Breeze Drive-In was opened on July 3, 1950 with Frank Sinatra in “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”. When I lived in East Knoxville in the 1970’s, it was operated by the Simpson Theatres chain, and I believe it was the first drive in in Knoxville to install radio sound.

Being a fan of horror movies, I loved the River Breeze Drive-In, as that was primarily what they were playing by the late-1970’s. I remember they often had movies from Crown International and Independent International, who distributed a lot of drive in horror movies at the time.

Unlike all the other drive ins in Knoxville, the River Breeze Drive-In remained intact after it was closed around 1980. It was converted into a flea market/swap meet, which I believe it remains to this day. The screen stayed up for a long time, but I believe it is gone now. Otherwise, the concession stand/projection booth remains intact, and the River Breeze Drive-In sign is still up; they just added “Flea Market” to it. I would love to see it reopen as a drive in some day.

Contributed by Bob Brown

Recent comments (view all 28 comments)

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on July 21, 2010 at 5:09 pm

Not a lot of Knoxville folks on CT i see,anyways this from Georgia, Now Showing at the RIVER BREEZE on Oct.24 1964 is THE BEATLES In “A HARD DAYS NIGHT” with a rather strange double feature we see at Drive-ins,“THE SON OF CAPTAIN BLOOD” with Sean Flynn.Like father like son? Beatles movie played twice that night.

bbrown1
bbrown1 on March 13, 2011 at 8:50 pm

At the links below are the photo of the River Breeze Drive-In opening night ad from July 13, 1950, and photo of the River Breeze in 1965 that were formerly on the Restore Knoxville site:

http://flic.kr/p/9myXqV

http://flic.kr/p/9mBZSo

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on May 31, 2011 at 11:36 pm

thanks bbrown for the ad remembering the old River Breeze.

bbrown1
bbrown1 on June 2, 2011 at 10:23 pm

Wow. I love the street view of the River Breeze at the top of the page with the sign and box office still standing, and the lot still empty, ready for someone to put up a new screen and start showing movies again!

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on June 2, 2011 at 10:35 pm

Yes,And I think that close to the interstate and as Large as Knoxville is I would think one might make a go of it, really in a great location last time visited the area really hadn’t changed that much.

TomMc11
TomMc11 on September 1, 2017 at 3:39 pm

As of February/March 2017 (Depending on what side of the highway you are on) the marquee of the River Breeze has a Coldwell Banker for sale sign on it.

dweaver
dweaver on October 16, 2017 at 9:02 am

https://advantageplus.weichert.com/65608068/

Happened past this drive-in on a recent road trip. Yes, as Tom Mc11 noted, currently for sale. Link and pics above.

While I agree with Mike Rogers that the location and demographics would make it a viable theater, it highlights the near impossibility of reopening closed drive-ins. This one is as good as can be found, likely. Ticket booth and concessions stand intact. Great lot and ramps that can be brought back with minimal effort.

Between land acquisition, screen installation, projector acquisition, and refurbishment of existing facilities…easily north of $1,000,000 before the first car ever rolls in.

With the Parkway Drive-in only 20 miles south, the area is not starved for an ozoner like some areas. Fun to dream, and I have had many dreams of reopening one, but every year the economics make it less feasible.

tntim
tntim on July 1, 2020 at 12:45 pm

A 1969 aerial photo was been posted in the photo section.

davidcoppock
davidcoppock on July 2, 2020 at 8:20 am

Opened with selected shorts(not named), news, cartoon(not named) and “Take me out to the ball game”.

tntim
tntim on July 30, 2020 at 2:42 pm

The last movie shown at the River Breeze was on October 12,1980. The final movie was “The Fog” which was a fitting title for the River Breeze since the drive-in sat on the banks of the Holston River. over the years, fog would offen roll in off the river and cover the drive-in. The final newspaper ad is posted in the photo section.

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