Wadsworth Indoor Drive-In

5050 Wadsworth Boulevard,
Arvada, CO 80002

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Wadsworth Indoor Drive-In

The Wadsworth Indoor Drive-In was opened May 8, 1954 with Donald O'Conner in “Walking My Baby Back Home” and John Lund in “Battle at Apache Pass”. Operated by Lee Theatres Inc., it could accommodate 1,000 cars. There was a 502-seat, air conditioned theatre in a 145 feet long building which opened July 11, 1954. This building also housed the projection booth, concessions area and a five-room apartment for the manager. The CinemaScope screen was 96 feet wide.

It was still open in 1978 and was demolished in the late-1970’s. The marquee roadside sign was saved and has been installed at a different location.

Contributed by Ken Roe

Recent comments (view all 15 comments)

compassdrivein
compassdrivein on May 1, 2018 at 10:42 pm

The Wadsworth drive in had another unusual feature that not many Drive ins had…the original screen was replaced by 1959 with one of the rare “MANCO-VISION” silver screens. These screens were said to offer 300% more light than a traditional white screen. They were made of thick extruded aluminum panels that were quite narrow. These screens were ok in the dry climates such as here in Arvada but oxidized in damp locations. Besides the Wadsworth, these silver screens were installed at the Tonto drive in theatre in Winslow Arizona and the Valley drive in theatre in Farmington New Mexico. Both locations have since been demolished.

kennyjames
kennyjames on June 29, 2018 at 9:14 am

The Wadsworth’s indoor theatre opened 5/8/54, while the outdoor section was still being built. It opened for business on 7/11/54. The indoor option was also available at the Evans and LakeShore drive-ins when they first opened. I am putting together a series of books on the Denver area’s drive-ins and indoor theatres. If anyone has any questions on the subject, I’d be happy to share my research with you Thanks – Ken Mitchell. .

MichaelKilgore
MichaelKilgore on May 20, 2019 at 9:26 am

There’s a large article, over two pages with photos, about the construction of the Wadsworth in the June 5, 1954 Better Theatres Section of the Motion Picture Herald. It concludes by noting that C. K. Lee, head of Lee Theatres, Inc., Denver, “owner of the theatre, also has two Colorado Springs drive-ins and the Monaca (sic), Denver.”

MichaelKilgore
MichaelKilgore on May 22, 2019 at 11:58 am

From the Aug. 20, 1955 Motion Picture Herald:

“Because of a petition asking that he be enabled to collect $40,000 put into the theatre, Max Weinstein caused the closing of the Wadsworth drive-in. A hearing was set for this week and the theatre will be sold at public auction Aug. 29. Built in 1954, the theatre is said to have cost $348,000.”

MichaelKilgore
MichaelKilgore on May 27, 2019 at 6:00 pm

The saga continued. From the Apr. 21, 1956 Motion Picture Herald:

Merf Evans, manager of the Denham, has formed A-Best-Drive-In, Inc., and the company has leased the closed Wadsworth, a 1,000-car drive-in, in a Denver suburb, for 10 years. Terms of the lease are for nine per cent of ticket sales, five per cent of concession income, and 25 per cent of net profits before income taxes. Evans is president of the company and will be managing director.

MichaelKilgore
MichaelKilgore on November 10, 2019 at 8:04 pm

The April 17, 1954 issue of Billboard provided more background:

New to the Denver area is the indoor-outdoor theater now nearing completion in the Northwest section of the city. Construction of the Wadsworth drive-in marks the culmination of a long-time dream of L. K. Lee, general manager of Lee Theaters of Greeley, Colorado Springs and Denver. It will serve an area of nearly 50,000 patrons. Featuring a double ramp arrangement for 1,000 cars and seating capacity for 600 patrons in the glass enclosed, air-conditioned indoor theater, all will view the same 96-foot CinemaScope screen. This, plus the latest in-car electric heaters, will make the drive-in a year-round operation. Also available will be rides for children, adjacent to the theater’s picnic area. An open-view, stainless steel cafeteria will dispense hot and cold foods. Lee came to Denver from Oklahoma in 1945. His first venture in the Denver area was a partnership in the Arvada. He helped build the Motorena, Greeley, in 1949 and had a hand in construction of the drive-in at Torrington, Wyo. Others with which he is connected are the Kar-Vu, Brighton, and the Monace Drive-In, Denver. LeRoy Ramsey, former manager of the Tower Theater, Denver, has been named manager of the Wadsworth. Victor Love, of Ad Film, Inc., will continue to do publicity and advertising for the five Lee theaters.

And the June 5, 1954 edition kept those details gushing:

The second drive-in to open in the Denver area within six weeks pulled excellent crowds as the Lee Theater chain opened its 1,000-car Wadsworth Drive-In. The opening was postponed for a week due to bad weather, but the delay gave LeRoy Ramsey opportunity for more advertising and promotional stunts. … At the Wadsworth, utilizing both indoor and outdoor facilities, the Lee brothers have instigated a permanent policy of admitting every 50th car free. Opening festivities included free gifts for every customer and special kid gimmicks.

MichaelKilgore
MichaelKilgore on November 14, 2019 at 8:47 am

Billboard, Aug. 28, 1954:

One of the largest drive-in crowds of the season jammed L. K. Lee’s Wadsworth Drive-In in Denver recently for the opening of a week’s run of “Bob and Sally.” Opening night saw cars lined up for more than 30 blocks with an estimated 500 cars turned away from the educational film on marital relations. A slight objection raised by church and civic groups in the suburb where the theater is located did nothing to hurt the box office. This latest addition to the Lee chain has had a tough uphill fight for its share of the auto theater trade in a city already boasting over 20 well established drive-in’s, but manager Walter Wright is beginning to see results of an extensive promotion campaign. Radio and newspaper advertising are keeping the theater’s name in front of the public, but a permanent policy of allowing every 50th car in free helps develop location identification.

MichaelKilgore
MichaelKilgore on July 23, 2020 at 11:33 am

The Wadsworth’s Grand Opening ad on May 8, 1954, promised a program of “Walking My Baby Back Home” with Donald O'Connor, “The Stand at Apache River” with Stephen McNally, and an unfortunately named “Kolor Kartoon Karnival”. The same program was advertised the next three days, so that’s probably what really happened.

kennyjames
kennyjames on September 10, 2020 at 9:52 am

I’ve put together a booking history for the Wadsworth Drive-in, from 1954 up to 1978 so far, in case anyone might like to know when a particular movie played there. I’ll be happy to share my research with you. Take care – Ken Mitchell ()

Rambo
Rambo on September 15, 2020 at 2:45 pm

My Father LeRoy Ramsey was the first manager of this theater. I remember going to the construction site on the weekends while it was being built. We lived in the apartment above the indoor auditorium. Rather cool being a youngster and having your own private movie theater.

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