Century 5 Drive-In

2510 W. Main Street,
Grand Prairie, TX 75050

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rivest266
rivest266 on August 4, 2015 at 4:47 pm

Grand opening ad for this drive-in lied. An 4-screen drive-in opened in Suburban Chicago on June 16th, 1950

http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1950/06/16/page/37/article/display-ad-39-no-title

dallasmovietheaters
dallasmovietheaters on October 24, 2013 at 4:14 pm

The Century Drive-In’s tract of land originally was home to the Downs Drive-in at 2510 W. Main St. in Grand Prairie. In 1949, the Downs became the third drive-in theater to open in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Its original screen burned and was replaced in 1957. And not long after being sold to a new owner, it closed on January 20, 1970, was bulldozed and replaced by the newly-named Century Drive-in which opened June 13th, 1970. It closed in 1987 and was later bulldozed.

The Downs was started and operated by Tim G. Ferguson, Truman Hendrix and H.S. Ferguson. The Downs was named after the nearby Arlington Downs Racetrack which had opened in 1929 and whose racetrack and grandstand extended eastward toward the drive-in less than a mile away. Located midway between Dallas and Fort Worth and with Irving within striking distance to the North, the Downs was well positioned. The opening of a GM factory in 1951 just across the way would soon add to the traffic and visibility of the area.

Ferguson complained about the availability of first-run film titles at his theater and brought a $150,000 Sherman Antitrust-based lawsuit against the five Grand Prairie theater owners as well as the major film studios. Ferguson’s drive to have more of a voice for drive-in theaters generally led him to become a founder and president of the Texas Drive-in Theater Owners Association.

The Downs theater tower burned to the ground in a spectacular 4-alarm fire on January 19, 1957 where the film “Fury at Gun Sight Pass” was playing. Fortunately, motorists backed away and were unharmed by the $15,000 fire. The fire was attributed to the high winds combined with the screen tower’s neon lights which were excised from the redesigned screen tower. The Downs racetrack closed in 1958 but the theater retained its name.

The theater’s positioning as a family-friendly spot was enhanced by its “Candy Cane City” amusement playground. The opening of a larger park — Six Flags theme park — in 1961 provided yet more family-centric traffic near the Downs which continued to thrive in the decade. Its success led the McLendon Theater Circuit to purchase the theater with grander plans. As the multiplex era of indoor theaters was beginning and with twin and triple screen drive-ins propping up, McLendon decided to one up the other drive-ins. It would demolish the Downs not long after January 20, 1970’s double feature of “Flare Up” and “Speedway”.

McLendon would create what it called the world’s largest drive-in and first four-screener. With the Arlington Downs a distant memory as a neighboring entity, the newly named Century Drive-In would begin business on June 13, 1970 with “Beneath The Planet of the Apes” with “The Undefeated” and “Two Mules for Sister Sara” with “Topaz”. With four screens with 500 spots each at its opening, the theater did well enough to merit an additional fifth screen. The Century would go on 17 years until 1987 before being bulldozed. The nearly 40 years of drive-in exhibition for the Century/Downs makes it the area’s longest standing addresses for nearly continuous and certainly consecutive years of outdoor operation.

Driveintheatre2001
Driveintheatre2001 on February 8, 2012 at 8:09 pm

Historicaerials is a great site! I use it all the time when trying to located an old Drive In. Thanx for posting the aerial shots.

RANDY A CARLISLE — RAC Photography

Drive-In 54
Drive-In 54 on January 30, 2012 at 5:47 am

Uploaded some aerial views.

Driveintheatre2001
Driveintheatre2001 on January 30, 2012 at 4:08 am

The Twin Drive In also known as the Jefferson Twin had 2 screens. Originally a single screen Theatre, it was later Twinned. Time-line, not sure of tho.. It across the street from the Yello-Belly drag strip. (That is still there today)……

Randy A Carlisle – HP

matt54
matt54 on March 26, 2011 at 9:34 am

Never mind my question, SiliconSam has already answered it, above!

matt54
matt54 on March 26, 2011 at 9:30 am

Cool, Randy – like what you did with the flashlight. I wonder if the McClendons tore down that original screen tower (if it was built in ‘49, I can almost guarantee that 1964 shot isn’t the original screen tower) and build 4 new ones, or did they just keep the original Downs screen and put up 3 new ones?

drivein2001
drivein2001 on March 25, 2011 at 7:57 pm

matt54.. A Photostatic copy of the DOWNS Drive In I have from the GPHS yearbook is now up on flickr with a History & description of the Drive In & a little description of the photo itself. The photo you’ll see is a photostatic copy of the photo that was in the Grand Prairie H.S. Yearbook. Enjoy! Randy A Carlisle..Historical Photographer
RAC Photography .. View link ..

drivein2001
drivein2001 on March 25, 2011 at 7:16 pm

Matt54. Sorry, I have not posted it as of today. (Sorry this is so late).. I’m trying to located it within all of my photos so I can post it on my flickr page.. Will let you know when I located it. Thanx!! Randy A Carlisle.. RAC Photography.. Historical Photographer

matt54
matt54 on November 17, 2010 at 1:33 am

Randy, what photoset is your pic of the Downs in? I could not find it.

drivein2001
drivein2001 on November 16, 2010 at 3:33 pm

What originally opened as the DOWNS Drive In Theatre was later Changed to the CENTURY 4 Drive In. I believe McClendon bought this Drive In & then adding 3 more screens making it a 4 Screen Theatre. I’ve read that he also added an Indoor Theatre on the lot making this a 5 Screen Theatre..
Today, A warehouse type building occupies the land. Nothing of the Drive In remains.
I have a photo of the back of the screen when it was the DOWNS Drive In that was taken from the Grand Prairie High School yearbook from around 1964?

Randy A. Carlisle
Historical Photographer
http://www.flickr.com/photos/racphotography/sets .. Enjoy!

Silicon Sam
Silicon Sam on November 8, 2010 at 3:09 pm

Click on the 1955 or 1958 HA link for the area of where Twin Highways was, you can see the dual entrances. BUT in the 1972 shot, it looks like it was twinned, or a better description it was cloned with another lot next door.

Doesn’t make sense, but that’s what it appears to me to be.

http://www.historicaerials.com/?poi=13599

matt54
matt54 on November 8, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Many thanks, James! That clears up everything!

jamestv
jamestv on November 8, 2010 at 10:24 am

Matt, the East Main was formerly the Chisholm Trail and can be found under that name in C.T. The Twin Highways was a single screen drive-in about a mile east of the East Main. It got it’s name because it was located between Davis Blvd. and Jefferson Blvd. coming out of Oak Cliff/Dallas. What made it unique was it had two entrances—one off of each highway! What made it an occasional problem was if there was very heavy rains, the lot flooded! It closed in the early ‘70’s.

matt54
matt54 on November 7, 2010 at 8:58 pm

That’s the story, SiliconSam – the Downs went down, and the new Century arose in its place, first four screens, then eventually five.

Does anyone remember two drive-ins out in this area, one called the East Main, the other called the Twin Highways?

Silicon Sam
Silicon Sam on June 6, 2010 at 9:25 pm

The entry for Downs Drive in says the Downs was demolished in ‘70 to build this Century Drive In. Maybe that’s the story….

Any ads with an address for the Downs to verify?

Silicon Sam
Silicon Sam on June 6, 2010 at 5:44 pm

Historic Aerials shows some interesting views. Views from ‘56 to '70 is shows a single screen drive-in at the site. Starting with the '72 view, it’s a 4 screen, but not 3 added to the 1, the whole place was re-layed out.

So the opening ad above is for the new 4 screen layout. Was the 4 screen a whole new drive-in, name and all, or was it always known as the Century with even 1 screen?

jamestv
jamestv on June 6, 2010 at 5:00 pm

I never remembered this drive-in having 5 screens; and judging by the aerial photo from Silicon Sam, it looks like only 4 lots. I went to a number of flicks in the early ‘70’s and enjoyed the layout; I had only been to single-screen drive-ins before this. Passing by the lot recently, it looks like they put up a huge auction hall/warehouse there. I knew and occasionally dated the daughter of the landowner.

Silicon Sam
Silicon Sam on August 9, 2009 at 6:55 pm

January 1995 view HERE. Looks like nothing is left at this point.

jamestx234
jamestx234 on August 9, 2009 at 5:13 pm

I forgot I also saw ZOMBIE the Lucio Fulci Horror Classic AKA Dawn of the Dead 2 or Zombie 2.It was released in July 1980 so I can assume that it was around that time when I saw it.

jamestx234
jamestx234 on August 9, 2009 at 4:36 pm

Photos of the ticket booths.

View link

jamestx234
jamestx234 on August 9, 2009 at 4:26 pm

I remember the Century 4 Drive In very well. It was located on the Arlington/Grand Prarie Texas line off Division/Hwy 80/Main and Great Southwest Parkway. The train tracks were right across the street. Not far from the strip of bars called The County Line. I remember seeing the horror film Friday The 13 and putting 2 of my friends in the trunk and sneeking them in (ticket for 1 please)!