Bel-Air Drive-In

3101 S. Cicero Avenue,
Cicero, IL 60804

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Bel Air

Opened March 2, 1956 as a single-screen drive-in, the Bel-Air Drive-In added two more screens over the ensuing decades, with space for around 1,000 cars, one of the larger outdoor theaters in Illinois.

The Bel-Air Drive-In typically screened double-features, and was one of only a few drive-ins in the US to feature two-sided screens, enabling the theater to show two different double bills at once.

Last operated by Loews Cineplex, the Bel-Air Drive-In has been closed since 1999.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 39 comments)

davidcoppock on August 25, 2016 at 1:47 am

“Where are the other drive-ins with two-sided screens(i didn’t know there was such a thing!)?”

Kenmore on August 25, 2016 at 11:17 am

The Admiral Twin in Tulsa is one. It was featured in the film “The Outsiders” although that particular screen burned down in 2009. A metal one replaced it and the drive in is still open today.

rivest266 on November 11, 2016 at 12:45 am

This opened as the World’s largest drive-in with the World’s largest screen on March 2nd, 1956. The grand opening ad can be found in the photo section.

JAYJay on September 6, 2017 at 10:56 am

I went there a few times back in the early 1960s I was always told that it was built on an old landfill / garbage dump. Can anyone verify this ?

Trolleyguy on September 8, 2017 at 7:04 am

I used to go there as well. I heard the same stories about the landfill or scrapyard.

MichaelKilgore on May 21, 2019 at 6:58 pm

Verification of that story about what came before the Bel-Air. From the June 11, 1955 Motion Picture Herald:

Plans are under way for a new $750,000 drive-in theatre in the Chicago area, it was announced by M & R Theatres. A 25-year lease for the old Quarry site had been obtained. The drive-in is to be called the Bel-Air and that it will have a capacity of 2,500 cars. “Walk-in seats” will be a feature. CinemaScope, VistaVision and wide screen pictures will be projected, with the latest modern equipment, according to Harry Sears, on a 135 by 90-foot screen which he says will be the largest in the country.

Trolleyguy on May 23, 2019 at 7:38 am

A former quarry makes sense. Years ago, once the aggregate had been removed from the quarries, they became dump sites for garbage and worse.

MichaelKilgore on May 27, 2019 at 11:48 am

The March 24, 1956 Motion Picture Herald wrote in the Chicago section, “The Bel-Air, which made its debut as the only outdoor theatre with walk-in seats, plans to show only ‘the finest attractions’ each week, plus cartoons for children. Bottle warmers are provided for babies. Children under 12 are admitted free at all times, and youngsters have free playgrounds. There will be concentrated promotion for family attendance.”

MichaelKilgore on July 22, 2019 at 7:39 pm

On March 14, 1956, Motion Picture Exhibitor reported, “An unfortunate situation occurred at the opening night of the new million-dollar Bel-Air Drive-In in suburban Cicero. Temperatures in the high 50’s had melted the snow and softened the ground in the huge parking area to such an extent that many of the cars sank to their hubs. Tractors were used to pull them out. Further showings at the theatre were postponed until the ground hardens. Bel-Air was built and is operated by Jerome and Raymond Marks, Martin Rosenfield,” (and the rest, if any, was cut off)

MichaelKilgore on April 19, 2020 at 10:04 am

As of April 1964, the Bel-Air was owned by Raymond J. Marks and Martin G. Rosenfeld, operating as M & R Amusement Companies, per a Boxoffice story about their acquisition of the Skyhi and Dundale drive-ins. A July 1966 note about plans for the Wheeling Twin added Richard Rosenfield to the previous two names. By June 1978, the company spokesman was Louis Marks.

Boxoffice, April 30, 1979: “In announcing that a third screen will add to the Bel-Air activity June 8, Louis Marks of M & R Amusement Co. said, “With the good product coming along for the summer, there should be enough to support three screens in each of our properties.” M & R had some months ago had third screens added to the Twin and Double outdoor theatres.”

Boxoffice, June 9, 1980: “Owners of Chicago’s main-line hardtop theaters "were not enthusiastic about having live pigs in their theaters,” so Avco Embassy pictures staged what is believed to be the first major world premiere in a drive-in May 30, taking over the Bel-Air Drive-In to launch its release of ‘Hog Wild.’"

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