Drive-in movie theaters enjoyed a renaissance 17 years ago when Galaxy Drive-In opened about 35 miles south of here off Interstate 45.
Now some music promoters are trying to put professional musicians back to work during the coronavirus pandemic by putting on shows at the new school of drive-ins, including the Coyote in Fort Worth. And a return to drive-ins is one idea for how to engage the movie-going public in a post-coronavirus world.
Dallas’ first drive-in opened on Northwest Highway in 1941, and drive-in theaters started closing everywhere in the 1970s. By 2000, most were gone. Dallas’ last drive-in, The Astro on Walton Walker Blvd., closed in 1998.
Dallas was home to 19 drive-ins during the mid-20th century, and seven of those were in Oak Cliff.
Chalk Hill Drive-In was the second one built in Dallas. It opened on July 4, 1941. It was identical to the Northwest Highway Drive-In, which opened two weeks before Chalk Hill. It had 204 loudspeakers and could accommodate 408 vehicles.
The theater sat on 12.5 acres at 4501 W. Davis, just west of Chalk Hill Road.
It had an 80-foot fiberglass screen, and in 1965, showed the Dallas-filmed blaxpoitation film “High Yellow,” starring Dallas’ own Cynthia Hull. The theater closed in 1973 and was demolished a year later.
Jefferson Drive-In was parallel to Chalk Hill, on West Jefferson at Cockrell Hill Road. It opened in 1945 and could accommodate 600 cars. It closed and reopened several times in the 1980s but closed for good in 1990.
Oak Cliff also had the Hi-Vue Drive-In, near where Beckley Avenue meets Interstate 35 at Overton. That one opened July 1, 1949 and was demolished about 30 years later.
South Loop Drive-In opened in March 1950 on East Ledbetter, not far from the Veterans Administration hospital, and closed in 1975. The Hampton Road Drive-In opened in May 1950 with a playground and “infant’s bottle warmers,” according to the Dallas Morning News. It was at 2833 S. Hampton Road, near where the Hampton-Illinois Library is now. It was demolished in the late ’70s.
Maybe the swankiest of all Oak Cliff drive-ins was the Kiest Boulevard Drive-In. It was at 3100 E. Kiest, near the Cedar Crest Golf Course. It could hold 1,000 cars and had individual speakers for every car. It had a playground and picnic area, like many drive-ins, but it also had a swimming pool and bathhouses. It closed in 1982, was demolished and has never been redeveloped.
The last drive-in standing in Dallas was the Astro Drive-In at 3141 S. Walton Walker near West Kiest.
The Astro opened on Aug. 2, 1969 and was known as having the largest movie screen in the world. It was 140 feet high. It had an electrical fire in 1998 and was torn down in 1999.