56 Drive-In

Highway 56 and Fairground Road,
Swainsboro, GA 30401

206 cars

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56 Drive-In

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Like a lot of drive-ins, the 56 Drive-In was a family operation from day one. The Bellamy’s opened the drive-in on Christmas day according to Tommy Bellamy. It was a thrill for his brother Tony to have a picture show right next to the house. They were just far enough away from Augusta, Georgia that this Swainsboro drive-in had a chance and for a couple of strong decades the drive-in did fine. Only illness from the boys parents closed the drive-in. However, by the late-1980’s they were back on the screen with what they hoped would last and it did for a few years.

Ray Hutto, theatre owner of the Southside said when he went out to shoot video the brothers were so happy. The old carbon arcs with a white hot light hit that screen with"The Rocketeer" in 1991, along with what they wanted Family films. They did play some R-rated action films for the rural crowd. One time a car caught on fire driving to the 56 Drive-in. The owner walked home got another car and came to the show. That is one of those theatre stories Tommy and Tony would tell.

Sadly, by the early-1990’s it was over with. The crowds quit coming and this time the Bellamy family called it quits. Ray Hutto remembered when he talked to Tony he said the screen is down and I have about 400 drive-in speakers boxed up with no home to go. I would be willing to bet those speakers are still out by the old concession in that tall Georgia grass.

Contributed by Mike Rogers

Recent comments (view all 13 comments)

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on May 10, 2010 at 2:43 pm

I just heard from Ray Hutto that Hi-Way 56 drive-in was on the cable show “AMERICAN PICKERS”.I somehow missed it. Wonder if anyone else saw it. They had Tony Bellamy on the show while they looked through theatre items to buy.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on June 11, 2010 at 5:45 pm

by Beth Harrison Augusta Chroncile

The marquee on Georgia 56 beckoned in red and green neon as twilight fell on the 50-foot high screen.

For the first time in 5 and a half years,cars rolled in to park beside speakers in an open field bordered with tiny orange lights.The concession building was filled with the small of popcorn and hot dogs. and once again carhops delivered food to hungry moviegoers.

When the country sky was dark enough,one of the two 37 year old projectors beamed an image across the field to the freshly painted screen. And with that the Hi-way 56 Drive-in was reborn.“we want to keep everything the way it was ” said Tony Bellamy,who is fond of anything and everything from the 50’s.

The July 7 reopening was the project of Tony,27, and his brother Tommy Bellamy Jr.33,-two brothers who grew up in the shadow of the huge screen.Their parents,Tommy sr, and Jeanette Bellamy opened the drive-in on Christmas day 1952 and ran it for 31 years.They closed it in 1983 when Tommy Sr,began to have health problems.“it was a Saturday night , i said,ladies and gentlemen this is the last night that we will be open until further notice,And we had a full house.I left the candy in the candy case and everything just like that.I knew something was happening to me”,Tommy ,Sr. said, He was having a heart attack and had bypass surgery.The drive-in lay dormat in almost perfect condition- for more than five years,Two months ago the brothers decided to re-open the Hi-way 56.

They spent $16,000 to recondition the screen and fix things up.“ the main reason we opened it was to give the kids a place to go!” said Tony,one of the six Bellamy kids.

More on the Hi-Way 56 drive-in will be added later.Thanks for reading this and to the Reporter Beth Harrison for getting down there to Swainsboro to get a story.Mike Rogers.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on June 12, 2010 at 11:42 am

More on the August 1, 1989 story…..

The theatre today features the same screen,the same carbon-burning projectors,most of the original speakers and the same popcorn popper from the days of bobby socks,slicked-back hair and going steady.It is not surprizing that the older Bellamys decided to open a theatre and not some other business back in 1952.They spent their courting days in the Dixie theatre in Swainsboro.“we’d sit and hold hands watching a western over and over” said Tommy Bellamy Sr.He didn’t even know how to run a projector.“ i thought you just plugged it in and put the film in and it would run itself” He said “ I did not know all the work that was involved in it”

But trial and error eventually paid off,The Hi-Way 56 Drive-in showed popular movies,romanaces,comedies,Adventures and horror films became a success.

While the younger Bellamy Brothers will show what Tony describes as regular movies, such as “MAJOR LEAGUE” and “PET CEMETARY”.Admission is three dollars for everyone.Kids under 12 get in free. The Bellamys were surprized opening night by more than 225 cars that parked the lot on July 7 and 8 the friday and saturday nights the Drive-in Re-opened.“it is good to know people are happy about it.We could not believe it” said Mrs.Bellamy.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on July 10, 2010 at 4:18 pm

Oct 2 1994,from the Augusta Chroncile, “AUGUSTANS HAVE KISSED DRIVE-IN GOODBYE.” After being open for three years the Bellamys Tommy Sr, and son Tony have closed the Hi Way 56 Drive-in.They got her going again in 1989.“We had loyal customers but not enough for ten people to come out and work every night on the weekends” said Mr.Bellamy. He said getting prints was a hard part of tracking them and getting them,plus one summer it was the area’s Wettest.“it rained every weekend” said Tony.On top of that right next door a local race track was opened drowning out the sound,your whole car would shake.

X60 on August 19, 2010 at 12:55 pm

I am looking for a drive-in theatre that I can renovate and reopen. Does anyone know of a theatre that is in somewhat sound condition that could be brought back to life?

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on January 4, 2011 at 3:07 pm

certainly none around Augusta.“WANDA NEVADA” opens June 8 1979 in a State wide release.Day and Date.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on January 5, 2011 at 10:29 am

“SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT” opens 5-27-77 at the Hi-Way 56 Drive-in.

tbellamy on March 28, 2011 at 9:15 pm

Thanks Mike for sharing out Drive-in and it’s stories! This little drive-in was my dad’s passion. He passed away last week!!! Everything still sits as it was, except for the screen. I did store the speakers for fear of theft. I spent a major part of my life there, and it was wonderful!!! NOTHING can compare to a DRIVE-IN THEATER!!!

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on June 23, 2013 at 3:58 am

LAST I heard the screen was still standing, someone told me the show AMERICAN PICKERS visited there.

jwmovies on October 18, 2014 at 2:28 pm

The above does not map correctly. If you use Google Maps, Hwy 56 & Fair Ground Rd will get you closer. The ramps are still visible about ¼ mile south of this intersection.

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