Bel-Air Drive-In

1190 E. Chain of Rocks Road,
Pontoon Beach, IL 62040

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Last Year of Operation

The Bel-Air Drive-In opened by Komm Theatres in September 1953. It was a single-screen drive-in, situated off the historic Route 66. It became part of the Mid-America Theatres chain, based in St. Louis. In May 1979, a second screen was built. At one time, the Bel-Air Drive-In could accomodate about 700 cars.

Its concession building also housed a tiny indoor seating area, with a large picture window, for when the weather was bad (since it was originally open year-round).

BAC Theatres ran the drive-in from 1982 until it closed in 1987. The Bel-Air Drive-In was completely demolished by the mid-1990’s except for its colorful and classy marquee (a large, bright red bell is behind the name of the drive-in), still in fairly good shape (except for the “R” in the “Air” part of the theater’s name is missing).

An industrial park is being constructed on the site of the Bel-Air Drive-In.

Contributed by Bryan

Recent comments (view all 21 comments)

DAL
DAL on September 17, 2012 at 9:03 am

That Vietnam movie sounds like “The Green Berets” with John Wayne. Jim Hutton met his demise in the fashion described.

Kenmore
Kenmore on February 26, 2015 at 5:53 am

In addition to the marquee, you can still see a partial outline and some ramps. https://goo.gl/maps/vOG1h

davidcoppock
davidcoppock on February 19, 2018 at 5:01 am

The Vietnam era movie could be one of the Rambo movies or one of the Chuck Norris movies(where went back to rescue soliders though to be missing in action?), i forget the name of those movies?

Drive-In Theatre Preservation Society
Drive-In Theatre Preservation Society on July 21, 2018 at 6:32 am

Sign of the times: Old Bel-Air Drive-In sign dismantled, sold to collector

https://www.thetelegraph.com/news/article/Sign-of-the-times-Old-Bel-Air-Drive-In-sign-13091470.php

davidcoppock
davidcoppock on July 21, 2018 at 6:48 am

The Chuck Norris movies were called “Missing in action”.

JAlex
JAlex on July 21, 2018 at 9:13 am

The (Alton) Telegraph story gives the location of the venue as Pontoon Beach. A detailed map search agrees.

MichaelKilgore
MichaelKilgore on February 27, 2019 at 11:07 am

The first ad I can find in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for the Bel-Air (with hyphen) is on March 29, 1954. A Jan. 2, 1955 article there reported that the The Bel-Air Drive-In, owned and operated by the Jablonow-Komm Theaters, “is reported to be the first drive-in theater in this area to provide in-car heaters and an air-conditioned Ramp House for patrons who prefer theater-type seating.”

A Jan. 21, 1971 Post-Dispatch profile of Louis and Julius Jablonow said that “in 1953 (Louis) built the Bel-Air Drive-In in Granite City.” He said he thought it was the first outdoor theater with “in-car heaters, an enclosed seating area, and an elaborate cafeteria style concession building.”

Throughout the 1970s and 80s, the Post-Dispatch’s drive-in round-up ads would use hyphens for the Bel-Air inconsistently, without more often than with. Considering those editorial uses above, I would still vote hyphen.

Motion Picture Almanacs placed the “Bel Air” in Mitchell from its first appearance in the 1955 edition and never included a hyphen through its final list in 1988. All MPA drive-in list mentions:

  • 1955-66: capacity 600, owner Sam Kamm Theatres
  • 1969-76: capacity 600, no owner info
  • 1977-82: capacity 700, owner Mid Am. Thea.
  • 1983-84: 1 screen, owner Mid Am. Thea.
  • 1985-88: Bel Air Twin, 1 screen(sic), owner BAC Theas.
MichaelKilgore
MichaelKilgore on February 27, 2019 at 11:20 am

Amplifying JAlex’s note, the best Google Maps address I could find is 1190 Chain of Rocks Road, Pontoon Beach, IL 62040. (That marks the point where the old entrance ramp, now Bel Air Drive, connected with old Route 66.) Pontoon Beach has some weird borders, but the old Bel-Air ramps are visible within the city limits, albeit a literal stone’s throw from Granite City.

MichaelKilgore
MichaelKilgore on June 23, 2019 at 3:23 pm

The July 18, 1953 issue of Box Office reported that an 800-car drive-in was being built by “Komm Theatres” in Granite City.

The Aug. 15 issue added that the St. Louis branch of National Theatre Supply “furnished equipment for the Bel-Air Drive-In on state Route 111 and U.S. 66 north of Granite City, Ill., to be owned and operated by the Komm theatre interests of St. Louis. Equipment for that drive-in includes Simplex X-L sound and projection, lights and generators, Simplex speakers and posts. This drive-in is scheduled for opening about September.”

MichaelKilgore
MichaelKilgore on June 24, 2019 at 2:13 pm

Looks like the second screen was added in May 1979. The Bel-Air’s listings in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch had only one program through May 3, 1979 but listed two of them on May 10, 1979.

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