53 Drive-In

N. Hicks Road and Rand Road,
Palatine, IL 60074

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PeterNorth
PeterNorth on September 9, 2014 at 6:11 pm

I think I spent every Saturday night the summers of 1980 and 1981 at the 53 drive-in. These were some good times, The midnight adult movies were fun as they charged $1.00 per car for these shows, when you were under age you just turned your head and handed the dollar out the car window.

drm128
drm128 on August 15, 2014 at 8:27 am

My first job was at the 53 Drive-In Theatre. I would get there in late afternoon and me and a couple of the guys would walk around the grounds with big plastic trash cans and pick up the “stuff” left on the grounds from the night before. Hehehe, you can image what we found and how we learned about life! Then it was back to the snack bar and start popping the corn to put in the heat racks and we even served hot dogs and pizza, which I helped make in the small oven we had. It was a unique experience both as a job and as a customer when we went in my parents car.

KilrTomato
KilrTomato on July 20, 2012 at 7:51 am

Wow….just found this site and had to post. I am 49 now and grew up in Palatine. I remember going there with my parents and younger sister as a kid and the playground under the big screen. Went there with friends and dates in high school and we drank beer, acted stupid etc. While in college, I was an employee there for three Summers (1981-1983) and at one time or another worked all areas of the theater. I helped maintain the speakers and sound systems, helped with security, worked in concessions, did grounds keeping, box office cahier, changed the marquee with the new movies at the front entrance and ended up the latter part of my last Summer as an Asst. Manager. Poppy Kohlberg was the adult offspring (in her early 40s at the time) of the owner/founder, who I never did meet. Poppy ran and managed the theater in the 80s and her brother ran the projectors. I met and worked with a lot of interesting people who I have long since lost touch with.

Also, there is a group on Face Book for the 53 Drive In which can easily be found with a FB search. I commented there about four or five months ago, but not much activity. Also, the picture on the FB site could be the only known surviving picture of the place. They were asking for more pics from potential contributors on the FB site, but that seems to be it. I never took any while working there and now wish I had. Kind of sad really, since it was a landmark and an icon from 1960 through 1986. Now it is a UPS shipping center. There is nothing on the location where it once stood to suggest it ever even existed. A lot of good memories though.

rivest266
rivest266 on June 23, 2012 at 11:22 am

This opened on April 29th, 1960. I uploaded an aerial and grand opening ad here.

galechicago
galechicago on June 27, 2011 at 5:41 pm

The 53 Drive-in was at Hicks Road (Old Route 53) just south of Route 12, which is Rand Road (Northwest Highway is Route 14).

My friends and I saw Purple Rain at the 53 Drive-in. What a hoot, a carload of girls in a Firebird watching Prince. Can you imagine? Tinny little drive-in speaker hanging on the window for a music concert movie! We had big hair, big shoulder pads, and thought we were So Cool.

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on March 18, 2010 at 3:48 pm

There was an article about the 53 Drive-In, June 1960, from Boxoffice magazine:
http://tinyurl.com/yagbgqr

BarringtonBob
BarringtonBob on July 30, 2009 at 1:13 pm

I guess my girlfriend and I were among the earliest patrons of the 53 Drive-In as we frequented it in 1960-61 from our homes in Barrington. I never had any money so I’d hide her in the trunk to avoid paying admission, which I believe was 50 cents. Yes, I got curious looks from those in the ticket booth when I drove in, seemingly alone.

Remember those in-car heaters? These were the times of which fond memories were made.

BarringtonBob

joesampson
joesampson on June 23, 2009 at 2:07 pm

Seen as a 5 picture marathon in around 1980:

Massacre at Central High
Night of the Living Dead
The Corpse Grinders
The Rats are Coming, the Werewolves are Here

I begged my Mom to take me to this monster fest and she did. However, by the time “rats” rolled, it was enough. I don’t remember what the fifth movie was as we didn’t see it.

whyprsnapr
whyprsnapr on May 11, 2007 at 1:20 am

I believe the place opened with CLEOPATRA and much fanfare. There was a playground (very low-rent) beneath the screen which was slowly consumed by the earth beneath it. I remember seeing a double bill of PEYTON PLACE and SINK THE BISMARK as a kid, but coming back as a teen to sneak in beers and (not so successfully)try to “make out” with dates. Another double bill, barely remembered from this ear was BARBARELLA and THE GREEN BERET.

By the time multiple screen were added, the place was turning into a open air gindhouse I vividly remember seeing rats run between the cars as LOVE CAMP 7 played on one of the screens. I also remember a cop coming by to shine a flashlight in our car during the winter (very Orwellian) because they could, I guess.

The stories about car wrecks due to passersby trying to catch a glimpse of the porno flicks was at least reported as true by the local press.

By the early 70s, more discriminating tastes headed to Wheeling’s TWIN DRIVE-IN where we could watch airplanes land next door should the movie get too boring.

Ten minutes to showtime….

b196309
b196309 on February 15, 2007 at 12:04 pm

Remember The 53 From 1962 to 1967 With all the kids from Palatine .Had some of the best times and memories of my life there.Sure miss it! Grits

DuPageDude
DuPageDude on September 4, 2005 at 4:10 am

I remember flying up 53 with my girlfriend as the sun set, trying to get there before the movie started. The car was a 72 Plymouth with a huge hood. My would cover up in blankets and lay on the hood and watch the movies in the open air-it was GREAT!!! I really miss tghis one!!!

Patsy
Patsy on August 18, 2005 at 2:53 pm

“It closed in 1986 and was demolished a year later to make way for a UPS shipping facility.” Nice move, UPS!

ralphman
ralphman on June 12, 2004 at 8:06 am

I remember some of the bizarre bills at the 53. For example, around 1980, I remember seeing a major Hollywood blockbuster (can’t recall which one) on a bill with H.G. Lewis' “Blood Feast,” “2000 Maniacs,” and “Color Me Blood Red”! In 1980!!!! I also remember being there until almost dawn watching up to 5 movies like “Last House on the Left” and “Don’t Look in the Basement.” Plus the midnight XXX feature (for only $1 a carload more) was always fun. They also stayed open all winter, so you could sit there with huge snowbanks around your car during the nasty midwestern winter weather. Going to the 53 was a truly unique experience, which is unfortunately gone forever.

TSMChicago
TSMChicago on December 20, 2003 at 4:38 pm

What a place!

The 53 Drive-In was located at a busy intersection that allowed a full view of the giant screen and whatever movie that happened to be playing at the time. Special $5.00 per carload promotions pretty much eliminated the need for hiding people in the trunk. I remember spending the entire night watching all five “Planet of the Apes” movies.

The programming was a curious mix of first run fare and typical drive-in trash. It became notorious for showing X-rated movies that anybody stuck at the red light on Hicks Road could see clearly. There were stories of auto accidents caused by distracted drivers.

As a high school senior I waited in line with four other underaged kids hoping to get past the ticket booth to see a real classic called “The Case of the Smiling Stiffs.”

One week you could see a real gem like “All The President’s Men” and the next week it was “The Corpse Grinders.” Only at the 53!