Key City Drive-In

1750 N. Treadaway Boulevard,
Abilene, TX 79601

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Key City Drive-In

The Key City Drive-In opened October 8, 1952 with Cornel Wilde in “At Sword’s Point”. It had a capacity for 600 cars and 300 seats for walk-in patrons. This drive-in was in the documentary "Drive-In Movie Memories" in 2001.

It closed December 6, 1968.

Contributed by Dave bonan

Recent comments (view all 5 comments)

malcolmdbc39 on June 28, 2012 at 4:36 am

In this theaters last years, it was $1.00 a carload.

dallasmovietheaters on June 3, 2015 at 12:18 pm

Billed as the “World’s Finest Drive-In” with the “World’s Largest Screen” in the city known as “the Key City” was Abilene’s Key City Super Drive-In Theatre operated by Maurice S. Cole. Its grand opening was October 8, 1952 launching with the film, “At Sword’s Point.” What made the $117,000 facility super was that it could accommodate 600 cars but also had two heated/cooled 150-seat enclosed viewing areas. The asbestos shingled screen tower stood 62 feet by 75 feet with its viewable screen at 60 feet wide and 50 foot high.

Cole built his first drive-in in Wichita Falls in 1945 followed by Corsicana and Fort Worth. In the Key City’s first year, it suffered a major lawsuit over an injury on its playground and Cole also ended up selling the theater to Mr. and Mrs. E.L. Williamson of All States Theatres Circuit. The Williamsons suffered a break-in in which the thief took three dollars in 1953, their first full year of operation.

The theater was rocked by a small tornado in 1962 causing minor damage and more extensive damage in a 1968 storm that toppled the attraction sign and damaged the tower. Within five years, the theater had reported 600 stolen speakers and suffered a break-in in which the robber took all of the hot dogs and hot dog buns though nothing else. Video Independent Theatres (VIT) Circuit of Oklahoma took on the the drive-in in its tenth year. Good news came for the Circuit when 15 years after the thief took the three dollars back in 1953, he or she returned the $3 with a note of apology in 1968.

And that may have been the impetus needed for the Key City Drive-In to become home to “Budget Vue,” a pricing policy that was just 49 cents per carload which the theater tried for six months in 1968. In November of 1968, Video Independent picked up the Tower Twin and the Crescent Drive-Ins. And then in December VIT picked up the Town & Country Twin Drive-In and that was simply one too many. VIT would abruptly close the Key City on a Friday night with another fine 49 cent carload double-feature of “The Magnificent 7” and “The Great Escape.”

The December 6, 1968 closing is the last mention of the Key Drive-In until the valuation of the property was challenged in 1971 and mentioned as the site of the “old drive-in.” No bookings or listings appear after the December 6, 1968 double feature.

dansdriveintheater on March 8, 2019 at 12:32 am

most of the ramps still remain.

MichaelKilgore on August 11, 2019 at 7:18 pm

Was this the same minor tornado damage that dallasmovietheaters' notes place in 1962 or another one? From the Feb. 22, 1960 BoxOffice: “A terrific wind and sandstorm Tuesday (9) damaged several Video circuit drive-ins. … the Key City at Abilene and the Holiday at Odessa suffered lesser damages”.

MichaelKilgore on April 13, 2020 at 7:41 pm

Amplifying another part of dallasmovietheatres' note above. Billboard, Sept. 5, 1953: “Maurice S. Cole has sold his Key City Drive-In, Abilene, Tex., to All State Theaters. This is part of a $1,600,000 expansion program for the circuit which has moved into new headquarters at Abilene. Tom Griffing is president.”

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