Bel-Air Drive-In

1117 E. Chain of Rocks Road,
Mitchell, IL 62040

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Bel-Air Drive-In

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Bel-Air opened in the mid-1950’s as a single-screen drive-in, situated off the historic Route 66. It was originally part of the Mid-America Theatres chain, based in St. Louis. In the 1970’s, 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 12 comments)

BlueDevilMN on September 3, 2006 at 4:33 pm

The Bel-Air is an integral part of my childhood. My family and I lived in Mitchell, not far from the drive-in, but I can only recall going there a handful of times. The first movie I can remember going to there was “The French Connection,” conking out before the movie even started. Still, if we happened to be out driving somewhere and our route took us past the Bel-Air, I’d have to look at the screen to see what was playing and look at the neon sign in front. I have the distinct memory of seeing Hitchcock’s “Frenzy” as we passed it one night, and seeing the film as an adult I can pick out which scene it was.

I don’t know how common this was among drive-ins, but the Bel-Air would have “dusk to dawn” marathons every year, usually a series of horror movies. I would see ads in the Granite City Press-Record and fliers around town. I never went to one, and I don’t know anyone who ever did.

The BAC chain owned several video stores in the area, and when the drive-in closed, the car speakers were sold in the stores, touted as unique souvenirs.

kencmcintyre on November 30, 2007 at 2:08 am

Here is an April 2007 article about the Bel-Air along with another photo of the marquee:

VentArc on January 27, 2009 at 5:18 am

As a kid back in the late 50’s, the projectionists (Van and Ronnie, I still remember their names) let me stand in the projection room doorway to watch the action. Strong Super 135 arc lamps, Simplex XL projectors, a changeover every 20 minutes — it was a much better show than the movie. A door on the rear wall led to the motor-generator room (to rectify current for the arc lamps), with a door on the other side leading back to the concession area. The projection ports didn’t have glass but had blowers to keep out the bugs (and cold air in the winter). Seems like just yesterday.

DavidZornig on September 26, 2009 at 4:52 am

Here’s a silly question.
Did the Bel-Air Drive In’s name actually have the hyphen/dash in the middle of it?
The sign appears to have taken some creative license with an extended portion of the “A”. But with the spacing between the “Bel” and the “Air”, it appears to me to really be just the “Bel Air”.

I only ask because all of the posts refer to it as the Bel-Air. Just curious. I guess only the incorporation papers might yield the answer. Just curious.

kencmcintyre on September 26, 2009 at 6:20 pm

That photo looks familiar.

kencmcintyre on September 26, 2009 at 6:45 pm

It was hidden under another one. No worries.

JAlex on December 27, 2009 at 7:47 pm

Venue operated from 1953 to 1986. The second screen was added in 1979.

Stomp on September 17, 2012 at 6:53 am

Saw a war movie here that took place in the Vietnam era. Very violent. A guy was walking down a path and a tree stump with spikes came out of a tree and impaled him. LOL Far out.Wish I could remember the name of the movie. Also saw the Dick Van Dyke flick “Cold Turkey”.

DAL on September 17, 2012 at 5:03 pm

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

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