I-70 Won’t Reopen In 2019

I-70 Drive-In sign and marquee

Alas, they won’t be seeing us next March.
Photo © Jim Good, used by permission

The Kansas City Star recently reported that the I-70 Drive-In has closed permanently, according to an email from the drive-in’s owners. Just a few years ago, I wrote that its future was uncertain, but that was before it invested in digital projection. Normally, that’s a clear sign that the drive-in intends to continue for a long time to repay that investment, but the owner, B&B Theatres, told the Star that “an arrangement with the landlord could not be reached”.

The good news, or maybe it’s glass-half-full news, is that the Kansas City metro area still has two other active drive-ins, the Twin in Independence and the Boulevard in Kansas City KS.

I have a history with the I-70. Once upon a time, I took the wife to see A League of Their Own there, and whenever I hear about watching a drive-in movie in the rain, that’s the memory that surfaces for me. That movie taught us that there’s no crying in baseball, but crying about drive-ins remains optional.


Video: Joplin’s Former Drive-In In The Round

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!

Video: How The Pine Hill Looks Now

In mid-2016, when I first compiled my full database of active drive-ins in the United States, I was initially undecided on the status of the Pine Hill Drive-In in Piedmont MO. I collected the Google Maps Street View (which showed it still active as of December 2015) and Google Maps’ satellite view (which still shows all the pieces looking good). Ultimately I went with Cinema Treasures‘ explanation that the Pine Hill had closed after the 2015 season, citing vandalism, though I would expect some digital projection issues in the mix.

Here’s a YouTube video posted in August 2017 and probably shot around then which shows that the drive-in still looks like it’s in pretty good shape. I especially like the way the ground naturally slopes toward the screen, and the drive-in speaker hanging in the open-air ticket booth. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone wanting a drive-in to reopen would stumble across this post and start in on an Ozark Mountain restoration? A Facebook post this week says it still hasn’t sold, so go check it out!