Bel-Air Drive-In

315 Independence Boulevard,
Romeoville, IL 60446

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BEL-AIR DRIVE IN THEATER

The Bel-Air Drive-In was opened in summer of 1949. The Bel-Air Drive-In was located off Historic Route 66 (Independence Boulevard) in Romeoville, north of Joliet. It was still open in 1988. Long since closed and torn down, the only vestige of this drive-in is the old marquee, now used for advertising by the storage facility built on the site. A “gentleman’s club” also shares a portion of the former Bel-Air property.

Contributed by Bryan

Recent comments (view all 11 comments)

DAL
DAL on August 9, 2012 at 8:43 am

This was actually an L&M location, along with the downtown Joliet theatres. I was friends with the long-time manager of the Bel-Air, John Strain. He had some pretty wild and funny stories about the place. One of the stranger ones was when the refinery behind it caught fire; the light from the flames made the area too bright for a decent presentation of the movie on the screen.

salc65
salc65 on April 1, 2013 at 7:10 pm

now at this time the the old marquee was torn down. went by their 2/12/2013 marquee is also gone no more markings where the bel_air was wish it was still their good times thier

Shelie_Jones
Shelie_Jones on April 14, 2013 at 2:42 pm

I have a dream that one day I can buy back that property and Re-open a Drive-In… I would ammend the name, of course…. Bel-Air on Route 66. :)

MichaelKilgore
MichaelKilgore on March 1, 2019 at 2:50 pm

The Bel-Air debuted in the 1949-50 Theatre Catalog, listed with exec: T. I. Wagner. The 1952 Catalog added the capacity of 1000 and changed the owner to H. and E. Balaban Ct.

The Motion Picture Almanac usually listed the “Belair” under Joliet. It was included in the MPA’s first drive-in list, for the 1950-51 edition, capacity 1000, owner Bel Aire Theatre Co.

The MPA showed the Bel Air on Romeoville Road in Lockport for a while, but included it through its final drive-in list in the 1988 edition.

MichaelKilgore
MichaelKilgore on April 18, 2019 at 8:36 am

Aerial photos indicate that the Bel-Air wasn’t there in 1946, was active through at least 1952-74, and was gone by 1988. (Although a 1988 topo map still showed its outline, so I guess those aren’t perfect either.)

Kenmore
Kenmore on April 18, 2019 at 11:45 am

Topo maps are rather notorious for not being updated. They often show features such as drive-ins that have been long removed as aerial photos have revealed.

Topo maps are good for verifying that a drive-in existed once in a location, but they are far from conclusive in terms of when something has been removed.

MichaelKilgore
MichaelKilgore on July 14, 2019 at 12:39 pm

Two notes in the Showmen’s Trade Review verified that the Bel-Air, wrongly considered to be in Joliet, opened in the summer of 1949.

From Aug. 6, 1949: “The Bel-Air drive-in at Joliet, Ill., opened last week.”

Aug. 13: “C. S. Ashcraft of the Ashcraft Company on Long Island attended the opening of the 1,000-car Bel-Air drive-in at Joliet.”

MichaelKilgore
MichaelKilgore on September 19, 2019 at 2:28 pm

In its May 7, 1949 issue, Boxoffice raved about the soon-to-open Bel-Air’s sign: “The largest Illinois sign ever to be displayed in Will county is now under construction by the Lotz Sign Co. The sign is being manufactured for the Bel Air Theatre Co. and will grace the huge screen tower of the drive-in being built at the southeast junction of Route 66-A and Romeo road, five miles north of Joliet.

“The sign will weigh three-and-a-half tons when it is completed. It will contain 12,000 feet of neon tubing. If stretched in a straight line, that tubing would cover seven city blocks. And the sign will be as wide a Joliet’s main thoroughfare. The letters in it will be more than 12 feet high.”

MichaelKilgore
MichaelKilgore on December 23, 2019 at 2:12 pm

The Feb. 9, 1952 issue of Boxoffice described manager T. I. Wagner’s suggestion for making a little money in the offseason. The Winston Chevrolet Co. advertised on the marquee, lit from dusk to 9:30 p.m. “According to Wagner, the sign has created comment from sources more than 60 miles away and more important, has kept the theatre name alive.” (With photo, uploaded here.)

MichaelKilgore
MichaelKilgore on April 19, 2020 at 8:42 am

Boxoffice, Nov. 24, 1969: “L&M president Mrs. D. R. Berman announced that electric heaters have been installed in the company’s Bel-Air Drive-In, Joliet. She said also that the concession building and ladies' room are being enlarged.”

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