Egyptian Drive-In

3100 Eden Park Drive,
Energy, IL 62948

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Egyptian Drive-In

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The Egyptian Drive-In opened in 1948 in the small community of Energy, just outside of Herrin, in Illinois' Egypt region. It was built by Wayne and Alene Smith, and originally could accomodate about 400 cars (though parking was later increased to over 650). In 1955, the Smiths increased the size of the screen to 125 feet wide by 83 feet tall, the largest in the country at the time.

In addition to movies, the Smiths offered a kiddie park that offered mini-train rides and pony rides as well as a concession stand that served cafeteria-style food, and propane heaters for when the weather turned cool.

The Egyptian was sold to the Kerasotes chain in 1974, but in 1981, was returned to Alene Smith. Kerasotes didn’t feel the drive-in was profitable enough. In 1981, radio broadcast replaced window speakers, and a decade later, Smith opened up a restaurant on the drive-in’s property showcasing some of her culinary delights, such as her funnel cakes (“as good as any at the county fair”) and Charlie Burgers, named for a famous local outlaw. Also featured was Alene Smith’s popular alligator stew. Smith’s cooking became almost as big a draw to the Egyptian as the on-screen entertainment.

Sadly, Alene Smith passed away in early 2001, and her daughter ran the drive-in for a season or so before the nearby Williamson County Regional Airport made an offer to her, and, at the end of the 2002 season, the Egyptian was closed for good. Later, the property was cleared to make way for the airport’s expansion.

Though the region’s most beloved drive-in is no longer around, it continues to live in the hearts and memories of generations of southern Illinoisans.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 10 comments)

JimRankin
JimRankin on April 8, 2004 at 10:19 am

For those who love the Egyptian style, there are a number of theatres that have had that theme, and an entire special issue of “Marquee” magazine was devoted to them in their issue of: Vol. 29, #3; Third Qtr. 1997, and the issue features wonderful color covers of the EGYPTIANS in Milwaukee (in the form of a wonderful color painting by artist Mark Hylton of Columbus, OH) and Ogden Ut. The table of such themed theatres includes 45 examples of those now, or at one time, with us. An introduction and Prologue carry one to those ancient days, and individual articles on the Ogden and Hollywood help detail the existing examples. Many other photos are included.
PHOTOS AVAILABLE:
To obtain any available Back Issue of either “Marquee” or of its ANNUALS, simply go to the web site of the THEATRE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA at:
www.HistoricTheatres.org
and notice on their first page the link “PUBLICATIONS: Back Issues List” and click on that and you will be taken to their listing where they also give ordering details. The “Marquee” magazine is 8-1/2x11 inches tall (‘portrait’) format, and the ANNUALS are also soft cover in the same size, but in the long (‘landscape’) format, and are anywhere from 26 to 40 pages. Should they indicate that a publication is Out Of Print, then it may still be possible to view it via Inter-Library Loan where you go to the librarian at any public or school library and ask them to locate which library has the item by using the Union List of Serials, and your library can then ask the other library to loan it to them for you to read or photocopy. [Photocopies of most THSA publications are available from University Microforms International (UMI), but their prices are exorbitant.]

Note: Most any photo in any of their publications may be had in large size by purchase; see their ARCHIVE link. You should realize that there was no color still photography in the 1920s, so few theatres were seen in color at that time except by means of hand tinted renderings or post cards, thus all the antique photos from the Society will be in black and white, but it is quite possible that the Society has later color images available; it is best to inquire of them.

Should you not be able to contact them via their web site, you may also contact their Executive Director via E-mail at:
Or you may reach them via phone or snail mail at:
Theatre Historical Soc. of America
152 N. York, 2nd Floor York Theatre Bldg.
Elmhurst, ILL. 60126-2806 (they are about 15 miles west of Chicago)

Phone: 630-782-1800 or via FAX at: 630-782-1802 (Monday through Friday, 9AM—4PM, CT)

melders
melders on May 21, 2004 at 10:57 am

The drive in is still here, dispite the fact that the airport announced demolishion about a year ago. They stripped the covering off the screen, but left its frame up. Also I believe that the concession stand and the ticket booth are still there.

melders
melders on August 12, 2004 at 12:02 am

Rumor has it that the airport didn’t pay the daughter all they owed her. The old billboard, which had been empty since the drive-in closed, now has a reality company’s name on it.

melders
melders on November 25, 2004 at 10:34 pm

The screen is gone, so I assume the rest of it is too.

RusSEAL
RusSEAL on December 6, 2006 at 5:32 am

My twin and I [commonly referred to as “The Twins” or “The Rose Boys] were the brawn and dim-witted backbone that helped Alene revive the Egyptian after the abysmal tenants [Kerasotas] left the property back in the ‘81-'82 season.

Though the initial entry is very consistant in accuracy, one point of contention for Alene was that the “property” of The Egyptian had not been sold outright to Kerasotas Inc but was [more-or-less] a lease-to-own arrangement that entailed the equipment and accoutremont of the theater itself, but not the land. Kerasotas claimed- though fiscally correct- that the venture for them was “not profitable” but it was the abomanable business practices and last-ditch-effort as a porno palace that sealed their fate back then and had the property rescended to Alene.

The love, desire and commitment to the theater, to her good name, and to the reciprocal love and loyalty of her friends/staff [“The Rose Boys] Alene and The Egyptian saw great strides for the decade of the 80s and I proudly stand as a huge part of that.

My twin and I have extensive files, photos and stories to tell of the resurgence of Alene’s theater from [roughly] 1983 to 1989. Though a name or two may escape me, there are many stories to be told- both beautiful as well as taudry.

For the definitive information concerning the 1980s Pheonix rise of The Egyptian, feel free to contact me.

tlogan
tlogan on January 13, 2008 at 10:45 pm

The Egyptian is now demolished but one can still discern the pattern worn into the earth of the parking configuration, clearly visible on Google Earth. It’s a crying shame that Herrin, IL lost the Annex, Marlow’s, the Riviera Drive In AND the Egyptian so long ago. The Egyptian was a gem of a drive-in theatre in its day.

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on May 4, 2009 at 7:07 pm

Here is a June 1967 ad from the Southern Illinoisan:
http://tinyurl.com/df94cq

tamrich
tamrich on July 21, 2010 at 11:05 am

I am looking for photos of the Egyptian Drive In from 1955-1959.
I am especially interested in photos of the fire truck. There was a small fire truck that would carry kids around the parking lot prior to the first movie.

Amyf19721
Amyf19721 on November 18, 2013 at 9:09 pm

I was wondering if this place is up for sale. cause I remember this place didn’t have a stable on there too cause I remember there was a horse stable too

Grandma
Grandma on April 2, 2014 at 3:39 am

RusSEAL, I would like to contact you about sharing your photographs with the Herrin Community by way of the Herrin History Room at the City Library. I didn’t see a way to contact you directly, so I’m hoping you see this. I personally am not at the library often, but the assistant director of the museum is there. Her name is Lisa Carnaghie.

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