River Drive Theater

1198 Beaver Avenue,
Beatrice, NE 68310

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River Drive Theater

The Beatrice Sun reported July 13, 1947, that Ben Goble and George Sumner were opening a 200-car open-air theater off Memorial Drive, described as being located in ‘The Heart Of Beatrice’.

The River Drive Theater, billed as ‘Nebraska’s First Drive-In Theater’, opened July 31, 1947, with Johnny Mack Brown in “Silver Range” & James Dunn in “Ghost and the Guest”. Charging .22¢ for adults (the Rivoli Theatre charged .29¢) and .10¢ for children. Advertisements in September noted ‘We can only park 400 cars’.

After closing in October 1947, the River Drive Theater never opened for the 1948 season. On June 14, 1948, a letter by George Sumner was published in the Sun: “There will be no drive-in theater on the Drive this year or any other year”. The comments were brought about by the overgrown weeds and the poor condition of Memorial Drive, which was blamed on the city.

In November 1949 George Sumner, of Central Amusement Company, was submitting plans to the city for the Hillcrest Drive-In, which opened May 1950.

As for the claim that this was Nebraska’s first drive-in theater, articles in the Lincoln Nebraska Star in late-1947 noted that Lincoln was approving their first drive-in. Lincoln and Omaha opened their first drive-ins in 1948 and by 1949 Film Daily Year Book had 17 Nebraska drive-ins listed.

Contributed by ron pierce
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