According to Cinema Treasures, the 21 opened in July 1952. Carload Flickr pool contributor Darren Snow wrote that he saw it closed and for sale, probably in the 1990s. Then the 21 was restored and reopened in 1997.
The theater guides of the time, Theatre Catalog and the International Motion Picture Almanac, never listed the 21 in Van Buren, which is 9 miles away, but started with Garwood, which is just 3 miles east. Later editions of the IMPA listed it under Ellington, 17 miles north. That’s part of the difficulty in talking about all those remote rural drive-ins.
The 21 says it will open for the 2017 season on May 26 and will show movies on Fridays and Saturdays till Labor Day Weekend (last year they were open till mid-October). So even though I was here on a Saturday, it was still a little early in the season to watch anything.
Miles Today / Total: 84 / 10780 (rounded to the nearest mile)
Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: dark / 47
Nearby Restaurant: Especially in rural areas, I find myself often skipping the fanciest places in town in favor of a good old diner. That’s what I picked here, the Float Stream Restaurant. The prices were great, the fish was probably locally caught, and there was pecan pie for dessert.
Where I Virtually Stayed: There aren’t any Super 8s or any other chain hotels in Van Buren, but there is the moist, woody ambiance of the Big Spring Road Motel. My room had a fridge, the wifi worked, and wood accents were everywhere. The price was nice; I’ll remember how much I saved here next time I give myself permission to splurge.
Only in Van Buren: Van Buren hosts the headquarters of Ozark National Scenic Riverways, the first national park area to protect a river system. Some of the park’s infrastructure, including the Big Spring Dining Lodge, was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, but the park was created by Congress in 1964 and formally dedicated in 1971.
Next stop: Phoenix Drive In, Houston MO.