The Most Popular* drive-in closes

from the Apache Drive-In Facebook page

Throughout the years, there have been well over a thousand posts here at (Please don’t make me count them.) During that time, one in particular stood out as the most visited, the *Most Popular post that’s ever appeared here. That post was about the Apache Drive-In in Tyler TX.

As you can tell by its sign, the Apache’s selling point wasn’t its snack bar, manicured grounds, or first-run films. It was known for showing “XXX Adult Videos” on the big screen for a small viewing field surrounded by trees.

On March 9, a post on the Apache’s Facebook page said, “Sad to announce the Apache Drive-In Theatre is permanently closed and the property has been sold.” Since that account had previously posted notes about holiday hours and pandemic-era closures, it looks legit, though I haven’t found any other sources to verify the news.

There’s still one adult-film drive-in left in Texas, the Fiesta Drive In Theatre in El Paso. But while the Fiesta always wears its, uh, heart on its sleeve, the Apache had seemed more furtive. The stories I read about the place always involved employees who didn’t want to talk about the owners, and the photos showed a screen with panels coming loose. It didn’t have much on an online presence. From afar, (I’ve never been to Tyler), the Apache sounded like a place where some folks quietly, maybe anonymously went to enjoy the show. Of course this lack of information about the drive-in led to unsatisfied curiosity. That’s the reason why thousands of internet users have clicked on the Apache post over the 9+ years it’s been available.

No matter what it showed, I find it a little sad to have to take another drive-in off the active list.

My secret: The Internet Archive

Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle showing off one of beloved 78 rpm records on a century-old Victor Talking Machine.

After I put Drive-Ins of New Mexico to bed (mostly) last week, I had the rare opportunity to visit one of the best sources for my research. The Internet Archive is accessible through the internet from anywhere, but to tour the physical plant, you need to be in the right place on a Friday afternoon.

The Archive, perhaps best known for the Wayback Machine of preserved web pages, also hosts the Media History Digital Library for the Wisconsin Center for Film & Theater Research. That’s a huge resource for drive-in theater history, especially up to 1955 or so.

And that’s not all. Browsing around a couple of years ago, I found a collection of Motion Picture Heralds from 1950 to 1954. Another section includes bound copies of California Highways and Public Works, another 1950s publication full of aerial photos in the public domain. There are probably more research resources that I haven’t discovered yet.

Then there’s the content. There’s a section of Drive-In Movie Ads to use for your own intermission trailers. There are thousands of Feature Films to put together your own double features around the intemissions. Or if you want someone else to do all that for you, there’s a series of prepackaged Shocker Internet Drive-Ins.

If you want something that’s not drive-in related, the Archive has over two million books available. For music, you can choose from over 100,000 LPs. And then there’s the collection that I think is founder Brewster Kahle’s favorite: over 400,000 78 rpm and cylinder records.

Really, I’ve just scratched the surface in this post. Go wander around the Archive the way you would any other extensive library. I’m sure that you’ll find something you didn’t expect, and something that you’ll love.

Welcome to my rabbit hole

Although no one asked for it, here’s a story of one day’s drive-in theater research. This morning was a typical session, so I’ll share it with you while it’s still fresh on my mind. It’s my journey down a research rabbit hole, which began with finding the location of one dead drive-in and led to the unearthing of a second.

CinemaTreasures is a frequent stop along my online rounds. In particular, I like to see whether another CT user has added a previously unknown drive-in to its long list. So it was this morning; “50sSnipes” had contributed the short history of the Lafayette Drive-In in Lafayette LA. I read that the drive-in had been somewhere on US 90, that it opened sometime in 1947, and that it closed in 1955.

Because of my long experience with certain tools, I wanted to help find more details about the short-lived Lafayette so I could contribute them to CT. First, I tried the University of Colorado’s link to an online Boxoffice magazine database, but that didn’t turn up much. (It’s missing a lot of issues.) Next, I swung by HistoricAerials to look for unaccounted-for drive-ins in old aerial photos and topo maps. That’s where I spotted a drive-in about two miles west of Lafayette on US 90. That was promising!

Then I dug into my subscription at Those folks happened to carry old copies of Lafayette’s local newspaper, The Daily Advertiser, and a local historian had already highlighted the drive-in’s grand opening ad from June 1, 1947. Great! However, that ad clearly showed that the drive-in was three miles east of town on US 90.

I needed more information, so I turned to another great source, the Media History Digital Library hosted by the Internet Archive. Searching on the Lafayette Drive-In, I found the following snippet from The Exhibitor magazine, March 9, 1955:

“The Lafayette Drive-In, Lafayette, La., will close for good advised E. R. Sellers, one of the owners. Hub Drive-In Theatres, Inc., operators of two other drive-ins in that city, the Hub and Twin.”

The Twin already had an entry in the CT list, but not the Hub. That must have been that drive-in west of Lafayette! Now I had to look elsewhere for the Lafayette Drive-In, and to gather more info about the Hub.

Back to The Daily Advertiser. The first appearance of the Hub Drive-In was in 1948, but that was a drive-in restaurant serving cold beer and sandwiches. The first mention of the Hub Drive-In Theater was in a year-end ad, Dec. 30, 1949, saying that it was under construction. Long story short, the Hub opened on March 21, 1950 on the “Scott Road” (US 90 west of Lafayette). Its last ad in the Advertiser was on Oct. 22, 1956. A year later, the former Hub’s land was listed for sale in the classifieds.

That was enough to submit the Hub Drive-In to CinemaTreasures. Later, I found another magazine note, from Nov. 21, 1956, saying that the Hub was still closed “for rebuilding of the screen tower which was flattened during a severe wind storm.” I don’t know the date of that deadly (to the Hub at least) storm; I couldn’t find a matching story in the Advertiser.

Then back to HistoricAerials to find the Lafayette Drive-In, the reason I started down this rabbit hole in the first place. As I learned from topo maps, US 90 didn’t really go east out of Lafayette, it was more south-southeast. Once I knew which road to follow, I got lucky again. Three years after the Lafayette closed, it was still in pretty good shape in a 1958 aerial photo. After matching the site with a modern-day address, I was able to post a comment outlining the exact location, along with those open and close dates.

Why did I spend so much time tracking down two Louisiana drive-in stories? I can’t imagine ever using them in any of my books. Maybe it started with curiosity, and then I felt a sense of responsibility to put my notes in the hands of some future historian who might write a Louisiana drive-in book. It’s satisfying to learn something that no one (at least on CT) had known about before. And it feels good to feel the fresh air on my face when I finally emerge from one of those rabbit holes.