While we wait for some real drive-in news to pop up again, I wanted to share this weird little slice of drive-in history. In Joplin MO, the Mini Art Theater showed movies using the Autoscope system, patented by Tom Smith of Urbana MO, about 120 miles away. Using mirrors, the movie was delivered to a circle of (in this case) 120 windshield-sized screens, one for each car in attendance. You can see a photo of an old active Autoscope drive-in here.
According to online sources, the Mini Art opened around 1971, and from its inception showed adult films. It didn’t pop up in the International Motion Picture Almanac until 1978, when it was owned by R. Younger. It continued through the final IMPA list in 1988, then owned by N. Sinclair, though it’s possible it could have closed a few years earlier.
I had always wondered about the appeal of an Autoscope’s ring of screens. The pre-VCR days of adult film would seem to be a good fit for that technology.
The embedded video shows the way the site looked in 2015. Indeed, considering the tornado that devastated Joplin in 2011, it’s surprising that the 40+ year old Mini Art’s outline is still visible on Google Maps. If you poke around the internet, you might find a few photos of how the Mini Art Theater looked in its heyday. Have fun!