River Breeze Drive-In

6110 Asheville Highway,
Knoxville, TN 37924

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Simpson Theatres

Functions: Swap Meet

Nearby Theaters

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 on October 12, 1980 with “The Fog”. 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 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 31 comments)

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 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 on October 16, 2017 at 9:02 am


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 on July 1, 2020 at 12:45 pm

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

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 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.

Fotomac on February 17, 2021 at 9:08 pm

Can anyone remember what the feature was for the week of 15 July, when Star Wars came to town?

dansdriveintheater on March 1, 2021 at 11:35 am

the screen foundation may still stand however the playground area still stands as there is a concrete square infront of where i believe the screen stood!

tntim on August 28, 2022 at 4:09 pm

Fotomac, The double feature playing on July 15, 1977 was “The House by the Lake”, and “Strange Shadows in an Empty Room”.

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