French Village Drive-In

8601 California Drive,
East St. Louis, IL 62202

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French Village Drive-In

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This was one of the older ozoners in the St. Louis area. It opened in 1942 by Publix Great States Theatres with a capacity of 500 cars. It opened as the East St. Louis Drive-In. Its name was later changed to the French Village and ownership changed to Bloomer Amusement Co. (BAC).

Beside the architecture of the buildings the screen tower is noted for having a stage and dressing rooms below it. Another feature to the state of drive-ins at the time were the tiered rows where cars pulled up the ramps to park and had to back out to leave.

There was a tunnel running from the front box office to the projection booth and to the back of the theatre. Through the tunnel was run the electrical, water lines and speaker wires.

During its later life it switched to pornographic features until it closed in 1984. It was sitting empty with its large screen and main entrance on St. Clair Avenue in the early-2000’s, but had been demolished by 2007.

Contributed by Chuck Van Bibber

Recent comments (view all 9 comments)

bbrown1
bbrown1 on July 11, 2007 at 10:59 pm

The French Village Drive In was actually opened through about 1989, as I saw THE FLY II and I’M GONNA GET YOU SUCKA there is what I believe was its last year of operation. BAC had pulled out, and it was operated as an independent in its last year. It was never actually an X-rated theatre, but during the it’s later years with BAC, they ran X-rated features at midnight on Saturday night after the regular features had ended. They cleared the field before letting you in for the X rated show, and if you had been there earlier, you had to come back in and pay a second time (and obviously prove you were over 18!)

Even in its last year, The French Village was impressive though worse for the wear after so many years. It broke my heart to see it decay after it closed. I seem to remember that in the late 90’s, there was talk about it being reopened, but nothing ever came of it. A church bought the property, and plans to build a new church building there.

For many years, the French Village was the last active movie theatre in East St Louis, and there have been no theatres at all in East St Louis since it closed.

Bob Brown

shoeshoe14
shoeshoe14 on September 8, 2008 at 11:54 am

Was mentioned in the documentary “Drive-In Movie Memories” in 2001.

bbrown1
bbrown1 on April 15, 2009 at 9:07 pm

A picture post card image of the French Village Drive-In from the 50’s can be found by going to the following link and then clicking “View the Record” at the bottom of the page:

View link

rally67red
rally67red on July 12, 2011 at 1:43 am

This was my favorite drive-in during the Seventies. Always favored it over the Skyview. I remember seeing a Disney double-feature…“The Cat from Outer Space” and “The Shaggy D.A.” My neighbor had a station wagon and we threw our sleeping bags up on the luggage rack. The first and only time I watched a movie on the roof of a car. Also, back in the day, we went to see “Star Wars” at French Village. My parents had a van (Seventies Van Craze Days!) as well as some friends of ours. We pulled one van in straight, backed the other van in next to ours, and opened the side doors. You could jump from one van to another. Too Cool! I was 8 and Star Wars blew my mind.

Stomp
Stomp on September 17, 2012 at 2:02 am

Saw the Raquel Welch flick “One Million Years B.C.” here in the 1960s and saw “The Omen” when it came out in the 70s. About 10 miles from my home. There is one other Drive in theatre here in the metro east St. Louis area about 6 miles away from this theatre called Skyview in Belleville Il Ive never been to that one and its still going strong! Amazing. Yes this license plate was for sale on Ebay BJ 5666 LOL!

DAL
DAL on September 17, 2012 at 12:00 pm

This location was a Plitt Theatre in 1976 when I joined the company. It was in the far south end of Ed Konradt’s district, which also included (at that time) the Wildey in Edwardsville, the Grand in Alton, and the Madison and Palace in Peoria. Plitt closed it within a few years; maybe that was when Bloomer took over. Sadly, years after its closure but before its demolition, the body in a murder case was discovered on the grounds.

jwmovies
jwmovies on October 5, 2012 at 1:06 am

To map correctly, enter 8601 California Dr.

Drive-In 54
Drive-In 54 on May 7, 2013 at 8:29 am

The St. Clair Ave address was the correct address back in the day, but they made St. Clair Ave a limited access road. So an access road was built so 8601 California Dr. is the correct address now.

Drive-In 54
Drive-In 54 on May 7, 2013 at 8:33 am

More pictures and information HERE

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