Edgecase drive-ins, those without ramps and screen towers, are always a little difficult for me to judge. That goes double for pandemic-inspired drive-ins, many of which had short runs and are all but forgotten. Those are the excuses I’m using for not adding two of them to the Carload active drive-in list until this week.
The first is ChiTown Movies, which is in Chicago as you’d expect. It’s connected to the ChiTown Futbol facility in the city’s Pilsen neighborhood, and it opened on June 9, 2020. Food is available through the onsite restaurant, the ChiTown Grille. Although its parking lot holds just 106 cars, it’s been going strong for three seasons now. It has a dedicated projection booth and freestanding screen, so there’s no reason to keep it off the Carload list.
Although there were drive-ins all over the suburbs, those within the Chicago city limits were historically rare. The ChiTown might be only the second, after the Double Drive-In (1950-1995) on Columbus Avenue. Also, the ChiTown is less than a mile north of where old US 66 passed out of (or into) Chicago; you can pencil that note into your copy of Drive-Ins of Route 66.
The second new entry is a sketchier drive-in in an even rarer location. The Drive-In at Union Market is in Washington DC, and I believe it’s the first that ever opened within the District of Columbia itself. On one hand, it’s been operating for 10 years. On the other, it has no dedicated screen, using the side of the Union Market instead. In Google Street View, I don’t see a permanent projection booth. The monthly movie series is open to pedestrians, but the drive-in sells tickets for parking spots in the viewing field. Like I said, this is an edge case, but 10 years of drive-in movies in the same location counts for a lot.
If you know of other drive-ins that I need to add to the Carload active list, please drop me a line. I’ll keep looking for more.