Aug. 5: South Drive-in Theater, Columbus OH

South Drive-In marquee

Photo by Keith via Cinema Treasures

It’s Day 217 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. I left Indiana behind, driving two and a half hours from Versailles IN to the South Drive-in Theater in Columbus OH.

According to the South’s history page, it opened in 1950. The South was the second drive-in built by Leo Yassenoff in Columbus. In 1971, Skip Yassenoff bought the drive-in from his elderly cousin and continues to operate it today.

One of Skip’s first projects was replacing the South’s original “telephone tower” screen with a modern steel screen. As luck would have it, a year later a tornado took down this new screen. The tornado rolled through the drive-in on a Wednesday night in late May just before dark. There were a number of patrons in the drive-in at the time who rode out the tornado. The cashier in the box office could see the tornado coming and just sat there, finally diving face first into a nearby drainage ditch.

Its history page also says that the South added a second screen in 1987, but the 1984 International Motion Picture Almanac already listed the South with two screens. So let’s just agree that it happened in the mid-80s.

In a 2011 entry in Marshall McPeak’s blog, he interviewed Skip, who at that point owned a total of seven other outdoor theaters. At the time of the post, he was still using two film projectors and in-car speakers like the old days, although radio sound was also available. “Skip says the theater’s success is all about location, convenience and price,” McPeek wrote. “He emphatically points out that nostalgia plays only a minuscule role in bringing in clientele.”

The South has also been the site of a large flea market on weekends since the mid 1970s. Based on their web site and YouTube channel, someone there is spending more time promoting the daytime flea market than the nighttime movies. It must be doing really well.

Once again, the twin screens saved me this night. One side had The Emoji Movie, but the other had Atomic Blonde, which I watched for the second time. Not that bad at all!

Miles Today / Total:  152 / 26682 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: Atomic Blonde / 132

Nearby Restaurant: With a name like that, I just had to seek out Dirty Frank’s Hot Dog Palace in downtown Columbus. The basic chili dog is just $3, but you need to try much more than the basics here. I had Slappy Pappy’s Super Sloppy dog with bacon, cheese,
sour cream, and topped off with french fries, for just $3.50. Added an order of fried leeks to that, and it still felt like a bargain.

Where I Virtually Stayed: I always feel safe choosing a Hampton Inn, and this one down by the Scioto Downs race track seemed newer than most. My room had a mini fridge, which I consider much more important than a microwave, and the wifi was solid. Breakfast was the great free Hampton standard. And the best part was that the hotel was attached to the track, although I’ve never figured out the right way to bet on harness races.

Only in Columbus: Every summer, the Ohio State Fair sets up in Columbus, and every year it shows off some of the finest butter sculptures you’ll ever see. In 2017, a team of artists worked 500 hours and used 2,000 pounds of butter to create the butter cow (an annual fixture since 1903) and a huge bottle of chocolate milk, the official beverage of the Ohio High School Athletic Association.

Next stop: Skyview Drive-In Theatre, Lancaster OH.

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