River Breeze Drive-In
6110 Asheville Highway,
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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.
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