Buffalo Autoscope Drive-In Theatre

Highway 65,
Buffalo, MO 65622

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The Buffalo Autoscope Drive-In was the second autoscope drive in, and opened on August 1, 1954 with "Rancho Notorious". It was originally owned and operated by Tom Smith of Urbana, who opened the first (much smaller) autoscope in nearby Urbana in 1953. Both autoscopes were open in 1954, but then the Urbana autoscope closed. This drive-in had space for about 200 cars, and operated as an autoscope for about 20 years, which I think is the longest any drive in ever operated as an autoscope. Eventually in the 1970’s, it was converted to a conventional drive in, and was renamed Highway 65 Drive In, which closed in 1997.

Contributed by Bob Brown

Recent comments (view all 8 comments)

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on September 13, 2008 at 7:28 pm

This drive-in has something in common with the Highway 65 Drive In.

bbrown1 on September 14, 2008 at 3:36 pm

You can see a postcard of the Buffalo Autoscope from 1957 below:


Lost Memory
Lost Memory on September 14, 2008 at 3:52 pm

This site has a photo of an Autoscope Drive-In and a news clipping for the Buffalo Autoscope Drive-In.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 13, 2011 at 3:36 am

A three-page article about this drive-in starts on this page of Boxoffice, October 23, 1954. There are several photos, most of them depicting the unusual projection equipment.

The Buffalo Autoscope had 122 44-inch wide screens on its five acre plot, and the theater could be operated by three people. The article mentions the Smith brothers' smaller prototype Autoscope operation in Urbana, opened the previous year and accommodating a mere fifty cars.

AnnieJones on April 13, 2011 at 5:17 pm

Can anyone tell me how long the single-car screens were left standing at either the Buffalo or Urbana autoscope. I grew up a few towns to the north (Warsaw) and believe I remember seeing the screens of one or the other when we would drive to Springfield. Not in operation, but still standing. That would have been in the very late 60s, the 70s and very early 80s. Am I really remembering them, or am I “projecting” a memory?

bbrown1 on April 13, 2011 at 6:04 pm

Annie, The Buffalo Autoscope operated as an autoscope up through the mid 70’s. It was probably those screens thay you saw. They were actually in operation until it was converted to a conventional drive in. I’m not sure how long the Urbana screens stood after it closed in the mid 50’s. If you can remember which side of the highway they were on, the Urbana Autoscope was on your right as you drove from Warsaw to Springfield, while the Buffalo Autoscope was on your left. Also the Buffalo Autoscope was much larger than the Urbana Autoscope.

AnnieJones on April 13, 2011 at 6:18 pm

Thanks for the info. I think it must have been the one in Buffalo. I was old enough to know how a conventional drive-in theater worked, but not old enough to figure out “how all those little screens worked”, although I knew it was supposed to be a drive-in theater.

I just stumbled upon the mention of the Autoscope HERE earlier this evening. Otherwise, I don’t know that I’d every have remembered it on my own.

bbrown1 on April 13, 2011 at 8:44 pm

That’s a great article. Thanks for sharing. Tom Smith was still alive in the late 90’s, and I heard a lot of interesting stories about him. He was more intersted in creating the system than the business end of running theaters. He started at the Dallas Theatre in Urbana before he built the autoscopes. He may still be alive. I think at one time there were maybe 20 or 30 autoscopes across the country, mostly in very small towns, so they are hard to document. By the way, the big screen from the Highway 65 Drive In was moved to the Shooting Star Drive In in Urbana, and though it is now closed, the screen is still standing and in good shape, though it is on private property that is not used for a drive in now.

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