Thunderbird Drive-In

3885 Jonesboro Road SE,
Atlanta, GA 30354

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Thunderbird Drive-In

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The Thunderbird Drive-In was a popular drive-in during the 1960’s and 1970’s. Usually in the 1960’s one week a month it would show adult films such as Russ Meyer films. Although I never went there I have heard that it had a nice playground for children in front of the screen. You could also see the screen from I-285 as you drove by.

The theater was replaced by a Sam’s Club which has morphed into a Home Depot.

This drive-in was about a mile above the 54 Drive-In.

Contributed by Jesse Brantley

Recent comments (view all 9 comments)

StanMalone
StanMalone on October 20, 2007 at 8:49 am

Booth was equipped with Norelco 35/70MM projectors. These had the variable speed motors which allowed the 70MM version of “Oklahoma” to be run in its required 30 frames per second speed rather than the normal 24 frames per second. I do not know if it was ever run here, probably not, but the operator was known to run the moives at the 30 frame speed if he wanted to go home early.

During its final years it was operated by Georgia Theatre Company and was managed by Mr. Earnest Crowe, a former manager of the Martin Cinerama downtown. This was a pick up for GTC and did not have a house for the manager on site as was their usual custom.

You could get a nice overhead view of the Thunderbird when taking off to the east or landing to the west, although this proximity to the Atlanta airport probably did not do much for the moviegoing experience.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on October 26, 2008 at 3:22 pm

Car capacity for the Thunderbird Drive-In was 1,133.

StanMalone
StanMalone on May 26, 2009 at 3:09 pm

Link to the Drive In ladder ad in the Atlanta paper on August 5, 1964. The blogger has also written up some of his memories of working at these places. Worth a look if you are interested in the drive in culture from 1970 – 1990.

View link

jeterga
jeterga on May 2, 2011 at 8:24 am

The Thunderbird Drive-In was one big drive-in theatre! It was easily seen from I-285 at the Jonesboro Rd exit! Feel free to share your memories and enjoy the old pics as well.

Mike Durrett
Mike Durrett on May 7, 2011 at 6:29 pm

Swell photos, Alonzo, but I’m not sure if the SUSAN SLEPT HERE (1954) and THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS (1955) picture is from Atlanta. There were at least 10 Thunderbird Drive-ins across the USA. My memory is the Atlanta one opened circa 1962. I was in grade school, so I’m somewhat fuzzy on it.

I do recall in the early years, there were dusk-to-dawn shows each Friday and Saturday nights, usually four features, not necessarily themed together. One new one and three oldies.

Mike Durrett
Mike Durrett on May 7, 2011 at 7:07 pm

I was told by theatre personnel that the first 70mm to play at the Thunderbird was PATTON (1970), probably on the first drive-in availability. I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the only 70mm.

My first experience with Norelco projectors was at the Thunderbird. I was called as fill-in projectionist during an emergency situation. I had the guy from the previous night thread the first reel for me before he left, so I could observe when I arrived the next evening. Norelco machines were not user-friendly or especially intuitive. I also ran them at the old Georgia CINERAMA, after the twinning, and that was a mess of problems. I dreaded being cooped up with those machines.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on May 7, 2011 at 8:11 pm

Some projectionists would simply drop reels,Stan.

jwmovies
jwmovies on December 20, 2012 at 3:17 pm

Home Depot AKA the Thunderbird Drive-in is located @ 3885 Jonesboro Road Southeast.

Drive-In 54
Drive-In 54 on December 20, 2012 at 4:24 pm

It has its own Facebook page

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