Halsted Twin Outdoor Theatre

745 W. 138th Street,
Riverdale, IL 60627

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Halsted Outdoor 1966-1978

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Opened in 1950 for the Essaness circuit as the Four Screen Drive-In and located on S. Halsted Street, at 138th Street in the southern Chicago suburb of Riverdale. Each screen could accommodate 300 cars and was the first quad screen drive-in to be built. It had a miniature train ride for the kids. This drive in was renamed the Halsted Outdoor Theatre by 1955, and it operated with only one screen.

By the early-1970’s, the drive-in was often playing blaxploitation films. In 1979, a second screen was added, and the name was changed to the Halsted Twin Drive-In. The drive-in closed in the late-1980’s, was briefly reopened for the 1991 season, and after that was closed permanently.

In 1994-95, the theater was demolished, and a post office was built on the site.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 16 comments)

KingBiscuits on December 3, 2008 at 10:05 pm

They probably weren’t getting enough cars to run the same film on four screens. Running the film on one screen likely cut operating costs.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 5, 2008 at 3:08 am

The September 2, 1950, issue of Boxoffice Magazine revealed that the 4-Screen Drive-In was designed by Los Angeles architect Lewis Eugene Wilson. Wilson was also the architect of the Baldwin Theatre in Los Angeles, opened in 1949, and in 1951 a second four-screen drive-in of his design began operating in St. Ann, Missouri (Cinema Treasures page here.)

Boxoffice published an item in its December 15, 1951, issue, announcing that Chicago’s 4-Screen Drive-In, operated by the Essaness circuit, would not open for the 1952 season. Edwin Silverman, speaking for the company, blamed “featherbedding” by the projectionists union for the decision to remain closed. He said that the union was “…demanding four men at the highest wage scale in America,” and that the operation of the theater was impossible under those circumstances. Apparently, the company was unable to resolve this conflict with the union, and this drive-in never returned to four-screen operation.

Dawn on December 5, 2008 at 4:14 pm

Any more photos of this? Anyone know what happened to the screens? Were they moved to other drive-ins?

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 5, 2008 at 8:16 pm

Dawn: If you search the Life Magazine archive hosted by Google, you’ll find a few more photos of this drive-in (search term: Drive Ins) and also several night shots (search term: drive-in theatres) of what I think might be the 4-screen drive-in opened at St. Ann, Missouri, in 1951.

On michigandriveins' Flickr page with the photo of this drive-in, there’s a link to an aerial photo from 1952. Click on the 1962 link on its page for an aerial showing the theater after its conversion to a single-screen. The screen in use is at upper left in that photo, and is obviously a CinemaScope replacement, but you can see that one original screen is still standing at lower left, undoubtedly being used as the entrance sign. The other two screens have been removed.

If the disused screens had been moved to new drive-ins in 1952, they’d still have become obsolete soon. The first CinemaScope movie was released in 1953, and by 1955 over half of Hollywood’s product was being released only in wide-screen formats.

Dawn on December 5, 2008 at 9:24 pm

Thanks. I just looked at Life and found a few more. I grew up in this area and knew this theatre, yet never knew it was a four screen. Pretty cool.

alanjw on April 24, 2009 at 12:30 am

I worked there in the early 80’s. I worked as a carhop. I took the money from the cars and gave it to the cashier. I gave them their receipt and told them how to proceed. Highlights of the two years were a molotov cocktail being thrown from over the fence. I put out three car fires. One night the fog rolled in. We had to give rain checks to everyone. Me and a few others had to disassemble the fence so a pregnant lady could get to the hospital. The entrance would flood a couple times a year. Enough people would get stalled. One night a guy drove fast and water was rushing over the hood. He didn’t stall. It was weird seeing headlight underwater.good

rivest266 on June 23, 2012 at 6:44 pm

1936, 1952, 1962, 1988, 1998 and 2007 aerial photos uploaded in the photo section for this theatre.

carl3615 on September 13, 2013 at 6:26 pm

One of screens and some signage of the demolished Halsted Outdoor is presently (2013) in use by the Melody Drive In, Knox, IN. I’ve added an earlier article and a pic of Halsted.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on September 13, 2013 at 9:20 pm

good stories alanjw.

Kris4077 on July 8, 2014 at 11:38 am

This concept may have worked if all for screens came from one projector, then there would not have been any need for the projectionist to strike. If they could have taken the Cinema 360 concept with a screen for every car and scaled it down to four screens.

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