Tonto Drive-In

Old W. Highway 66 and N. Adot Lane,
Winslow, AZ 86047

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The Tonto Drive-In was opened in 1952. It was closed in 1988 and as of May 2007, only the marquee was left. That may be gone by now as well. The Tonto Drive-In was on the outskirts of Winslow.

Contributed by Ken McIntyre

Recent comments (view all 6 comments)

TLSLOEWS on July 12, 2010 at 5:32 pm

Sad looking marquee shot of the Tonto Drive-in.

jwmovies on December 21, 2012 at 6:29 pm

Approx. location for this drive-in was Old W Highway 66 & N Adot Ln, Winslow, AZ 86047 across from the trailer park. Some ramps though barely visible are still there.

MichaelKilgore on February 6, 2019 at 3:05 pm

The Tribune News of Holbrook AZ ran a photo on April 2, 1981 showing that winds “gusting up to 60 miles per hour” knocked down the Tonto’s screen “last Thursday”, which would make it March 26, 1981.

The Winslow Mail ran a photo on May 21 that year showing the “80 foot by 40 foot steel structure” getting lifted into place. The caption said it replaced the destroyed wooden screen. “The drive-in will be opening in the very near future, according to Nolan G. Losey Sr., projectionist.”

MichaelKilgore on February 6, 2019 at 3:56 pm

The Winslow Mail wrote that the Tonto held its formal opening on Oct. 12, 1951. “The theatre, under the control of Nace Interests in Phoenix, will be managed locally by Rusty Bridge, manager of Winslow’s Rialto and Chief theaters.” Capacity was 300 at the start, but would be 500 “when finished”.

Ground-breaking ceremonies had been Aug. 31, and that really fast construction was under the direction of Michael A. Parker. Opening night movies were Colt 45, starring Randolph Scott, and Return of the Frontiersman with Julie London. Who would later marry Bobby Troup, who wrote the song Route 66.

In September 1983, Dean Branson in Flagstaff advertised in the Winslow Mail’s want ads for a resident manager for the Tonto.

The Tonto was still advertising in the Mail in September 1985, but not in 1986. In 1993, the Mail wrote that part of the movie Natural Born Killers was being shot at the “old” Tonto, so it had probably closed by then.

Historic Aerials shows the Tonto with its screen up, facing northwest, in 1953. Other photos show the Tonto still active in 1980, and the rebuilt screen up in 1997. That screen was gone by 2005.

The sad remnant of the marquee was still there as of July 2018, per Google Street View from I-40.

Motion Picture Almanac mentions:

  • 1952-66: capacity 300, owned by H. (Harry) L. Nace Theatres
  • 1969-76: no owner info
  • 1977-84: capacity 300, owned by Nace
  • 1985-88 (final drive-in list): owned by Blair & Reid
MichaelKilgore on May 19, 2019 at 9:30 pm

A note in the Nov. 10, 1982 issue of The Winslow Mail said that the Harry Nace Company sold six theaters, including the Rialto and Tonto Drive-In, to Blair and Reid Properties of Phoenix, effective Nov. 5.

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