Y & W Drive-In

6680 Broadway,
Merrillville, IN 46410

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Y & W Drive-In

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Y & W drive-in opened as a single screen in May 1953, just off of the main strip in the town. It’s large sign could be sign for blocks when lit up. The first screen could hold over 1,600 cars. There was a playground on the grounds which included a small zoo which mostly had monkeys.

Every Friday night through the late-1970’s screen 1 would have lucky Banko which was basically bingo. You got your card when you bought your ticket and at intermission an announcer would read off numbers over the speakers. Play continued until all the prizes were handed out. The prizes weren’t extravagent but my one time as a winner won me a coffee maker which lasted for years.

In 1971 a decidedly smaller second screen was opened to the south of screen 1 which held 500 cars. When passing the drive-in on Broadway you could easily see the movies on each screen. The drive-in was hugely popular and even stayed open all year around through 1978. Every holiday there was a terrific fireworks show. Every New Year’s Eve screen 1 would have a dusk to dawn show with free coffee, donuts, and passes to the few who managed to make it through the night.

In 1981, a third and much smaller screen opened right behind screen 2 and held 300 cars. Still again the third screen was far enough back that you could see it from Broadway. Up until the late-1980’s each screen presented a triple feature each Friday and Saturday and a double feature the rest of the week during the season. I can remember a great triple feature of “Aliens”, “The Fly”, and “Fright Night”.

In the 1990’s, attendance had dwindled badly and gang activity had increased. After the 1997 season the Y & W closed for good. In the winter of 2002 I snuck onto the grounds one night and took a tour. The theater is in terrible condition. Weeds in screen 2 are almost five feet high and the other two screens have weeds everywhere as well. Screen 2 is peeling badly though screens 1 and 3 looked remarkably intact. The two concession stands and all three projectionist booths were badly damaged by vandals.

In 2002, the marquee was sold and removed and every time I drive by it breaks my heart to see how badly it looks. Sadly it would probably cost much too much to renovate but there is always hope.

As of March, 2004, the drive-in has been demolished.

Contributed by John

Recent comments (view all 15 comments)

JohnSanchez
JohnSanchez on June 13, 2005 at 8:37 am

The initals were for the chain that opened the drive in originally. It stands for Young and Wolfe.

JohnSanchez
JohnSanchez on July 11, 2005 at 9:56 am

My first visit to the Y&W was in the spring of 1976. My dad took me to see “Lucky Lady” with Burt Reynolds and Gene Hackman. The second feature was a long forgotten comedy starring Alan Arkin called “Rafferty and the Gold Dust Twins” which I thought was pretty good and would love to see again. I also remember seeing “The Omen” on screen 2 and “The Exorcist” was playing on screen 1. Off and on I would sneak a peek at Screen 1 but was too scared to look for long. Other films I saw there in the 70’s included “Return to Witch Mountain” plus “The Gnome-Mobile”; “Peter Pan”, “Halloween” plus a low budget Chuck Conners slasher film called “Tourist Trap.” My fondest memory would be seeing “Young Frankenstein” in a 1977 re-release. Beyond screen 1 in the distance lightning flashed every few minutes which really added to the movie. I can also remember the Y&W did fireworks every Memorial Day, Labor Day, and the 4th of July. Up until the early 70’s I think they even did them on New Year’s Eve. A buddy of mine and I went on a fireworks night in the 80’s and the display was terrific – still one of the best I have seen and something my buddy and I still talk about to this day.

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on May 20, 2006 at 1:16 pm

Here is an interesting article about the Y&W:
http://tinyurl.com/qooq2

jackshaw
jackshaw on November 28, 2006 at 6:59 pm

I love the Movies, however I have a bit of trouble with the Drive in Concept. Not the theater’s fault, it’s just that the last time My wife and I went to the Y&W, we fell asleep. When we woke up, we were the only car in the parking lot. I use to get too comfortable in the Drive ins. Could have been those darned reclining seats! I did enjoy the Banko. Loved to listen to the guy read off the numbers. Kind of quirkie, but entertaining. Made good memories for me.

jackshaw
jackshaw on November 28, 2006 at 7:09 pm

One comment about Indiana Drive-ins. There was the Dunes Drive-in in Lake Station (East Gary) Indiana. Saw the Shining there. Got a great teenage story that happened at the Dunes: A car-load of us guys went to the movies and as a car-load of guys often did, we were misbehaving. Someone at the concession stand called the Lake Station Police on us. We know this because a friend ran back to our car and tipped us off. We saw the Police car pull up at the concesion stand and then take off like a bullet for our car, but a funny thing happened on the way. He smacked right into a speaker pole going about 30mph. across the parking lot. He never made it to our car. OOPS!

itsvoodoo
itsvoodoo on June 11, 2007 at 8:37 pm

I grew up in Merrillville, and I was sad to see the Y&W go after all these years. During the summer months.. for years.. I’ve always gone there every Friday night to see movies. They would always show 2 movies… than the first one a 3rd time.. I loved it!

The sign was spectacular! I wish I had a photo of it… it’s one of my biggest regrets.. never getting a picture of it.

milla1
milla1 on June 26, 2008 at 1:04 pm

I grew up in Hobart and frequented the Y&W throughout the 80’s and early 90’s. It was heartbreaking watching it steadily decline. Some of my fondest childhood memories were there. I remember when the train and carousel were still running and seeing movies like E.T., Explorers, The Fly, The first Batman movie, Jurassic Park….and I think the first movie I saw there was Clash of the Titans..so that was probably 70’s? We take our children now to the single screen 49er drive-in in Valpo…not the same..but all that’s left here in NWI. Some night’s it sells out an hour before dusk and it’s such a shame there is no where else to go :–(

mallory
mallory on February 2, 2009 at 11:58 pm

I’m so happy to have found this website about Y&W. I hope that several will see my post and may be able to help me. I’m looking for additional information on the carousel that used to operate at the drive-in. In the last 90s, I was able to purchase one of the horses off the carousel. It was in very rough shape. We had it restored and I’m now hoping to find some memorabilia from the Y&W to hang on the wall next to it. Does anyone know if there were tickets or tokens to ride the carousel? If so, does anyone have one? I’m also looking for any program or brochure or anything like that mentions the carousel as well as photos of when it was up and running. Thank you for any help you can provide!

Elizabeth (.nz)

RJT70mm
RJT70mm on October 6, 2009 at 12:35 pm

There’s a picture of a drive in booth in some Strong Electric ads from around 1960 showing Strong Jetarc lamps. Could this be the Y&W booth?

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on September 14, 2010 at 6:15 pm

In 1956 it held 940 cars.

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