Thunderbird Drive-In

3501 Hamilton Avenue,
St. Louis, MO 63102

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Thunderbird Drive-In

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The layout for the Thunderbird Drive-In was strange in that even though the drive-in was on Hamilton Avenue the entrance was actually on Natural Bridge Road. It was located between the popular Goody Goody Restaurant and a liquor store. The entrance stretched a block long before you actually got to the box office.

It was a 450 car drive-in that opened in July 1959. It was operated by Mid America Theatres. With the changing of the demographics of the neighborhood the Thunderbird Drive-In played kung-fu and “blaxploitation” features toward the end. The theatre closed in October 1977.

Contributed by Chuck Van Bibber

Recent comments (view all 19 comments)

Norman Plant
Norman Plant on August 28, 2009 at 12:59 am

Chris, in viewing other posts on this and other boards, I find your knowledge of the St Louis area, and particularly the north St Louis area, second to none. While I am a south side guy, I too remember looking regularly at the movie listings from that era and must agree with you about the type of movies that were showing in at the Thunderbird. Given the choice, I’ll take your recollections over anyone else’s “facts”.

TLSLOEWS
TLSLOEWS on March 2, 2010 at 9:57 pm

Allrighty them.

Chris Utley
Chris Utley on January 20, 2011 at 5:19 pm

There’s a Facebook group dedicated to St. Louis area drive-ins & indoor theatres with tons of pictures of the Thunderbird and other drive-ins along with newspaper ads for each theatre. I’ve combed through the pics and ads of “The Bird” – not a trace of 2001 or Funny Girl to be found. But there are TONS of ads for horror flicks on that page.

Sorry if I don’t post the link…can’t access FB during the day.

Chris Utley
Chris Utley on June 17, 2011 at 11:33 pm

Here’s that link I was talking about earlier: St. Louis Flashback Movie & Drive-In Theatres

Tons of T-Bird ads. No 2001 in any of them.

Ptah
Ptah on April 24, 2012 at 4:35 am

Chris Utley… I realize that this is a relaxed forum… But posting a link to Facebook and what is generally considered to be a historical collage of bits and pieces is not considered to be an archive… The reference doesn’t have to be parenthetical but it does have to have some element of reference to the topic. Many have honed in on “2001 A Space Odyssey” it was released around April of 1968… Which would’ve certainly shone up in the drive-ins by August of that same year.

I assume when you say that there are tons of references to the Thunderbird Drive-In… You must mean in the terms of coming from “bizarro world” (a Superman reference) in which there is absolutely zero gravity in weight of references to the Thunderbird Drive-In… Or perhaps this is opposite day… When up is down… And left his right… Unless your link has been redacted or altered in some way there is absolutely no reference to the Thunderbird Drive-In… That I can see with my physical eyes… Perhaps I should try transcendental meditation… or soul travel… Or should I look with a divining rod… Or perhaps a seeing-eye dog…umm how about carbon dating….

Chris Utley
Chris Utley on June 22, 2012 at 6:50 pm

Just say no…

Anyway, the FB site has been stripped of its content because the owner did not want to switch to the new “Timeline” format. In the 2 ½ years since your previous comment, the folks on this forum both visited the former page and verified its content before the page was stripped.

Chris Utley
Chris Utley on October 6, 2012 at 4:20 am

Well…the owner of the aforementioned FB page had a change of heart. Here’s the new link: https://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/204180702979678/

I DARE anybody to find 2001 ads in the Thunderbird section!

Noir
Noir on September 14, 2013 at 10:14 pm

Great place. The drive up to it seemed narrow and long. I remember almost an entirely African-American audience from 1972-1974.Before that it is vague. I remember the films with black stars—I do not remember what we saw—-Shaft, Superfly, Grier, Buck and the Preacher, …

This area was completely surrounded by a majority African-American community and you could access it from black areas with out passing through non-black areas via Highway 70 to Goodfellow, drive down Natural Bridge from Union or Kingshighway, drive from Kienlen…safe physical access mattered.

It was called “The Bird.”
Being from the city, Thunderbird was a drink, like Rosie O'Grady, Freight Train,or Brass Monkey.

Next door: I liked the Goody Goody Restaurant. I liked Sam the Watermelon man There was a liquor store across the street. I love Skateking in 1970’s 1980’s and 1990’s—-real DJ’s, real mixes, real dancing with couples, Soul Train line on skates, flips and jumps, slow songs, fast songs a real vibrant sycopated dance floor. Fabulous urban line dancing on skates—you name it. Christian nite, old school for elders night and so on. Groups use to travel from Skateking to other rinks around the country—New York, Atlanta, Detroit—-and people use to ask—elsewhere —about Skateking. Tom Casevelli Ford was there on Goodfellow. Old reserve Army Barracks and Small Ammunition plant.

After thunderbird closed,
North Twin was the only drive-in left within range.

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