Hello everyone. Today I will be writing about the Double Drive-In Theater that was located at 2800 W Columbus Avenue in Chicago. The theater opened on August 19, 1950. The first film that was presented was Where The Sidewalk Ends. The advertisements for the theater in the local newspapers printed the address at W 74th Street and South Western Ave. Actually, it was located three blocks west on Columbus Avenue. The area at the time wasn’t built up, and it maintained a very suburban feeling. It changed rapidly as the years went by.
When I moved to the Ashburn neighborhood in the fall of 1974, the kids in the neighborhood mentioned the drive-in many times. I started going there when I was about 12 or 13 years old. I didn’t ask my parents to take my brothers and me there because they didn’t learn the drive at the time. My mother eventually did and received her driver’s license a year later. We would ask other kids that were older than us to take us there. The first movie I saw there was called Eat My Dust. That movie starred Ron Howard who was a big star on the classic TV series Happy Days. I don’t remember who decided we see this film.
When we arrived there, I was amazed at how huge this place was. I remembered the concession stand where it sold popcorn. The distinctive aroma was heavenly. When we found a parking spot, the driver carefully placed the speaker next to him. Suddenly, I looked back to the rear window of the car and naturally noticed the trunk door opening slowly. Two other kids instantly jumped out of the trunk and went inside the vehicle. There were at least five other cars at the drive-in that did the same. This was like an ongoing tradition at the theater for many years. We watched the movie, and it wasn’t very good. But I enjoyed the experience of going there for the first time.
The last time I went to the Double Drive-In was in the summer of 1983. I don’t remember which movie I saw. I think it was Trading Places with Eddie Murphy. I’m not exactly certain. I typically attended at The Ford City Cinema at Ford City Shopping Center in Chicago to go see the most recent films. The drive-in theater, also, occupied a flea market on the premises. It was jam-packed on the weekends. I went one weekend there, and it was wonderful. It was a treasure trove of items that were on sale there. I heard people can watch the movie from the homes for free. They did that by sitting in their backyards or sitting on the roofs from their homes. Customers brought their own food and drinks there. I witnessed buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonald’s, soft drinks, and beer.
The Double Drive-In added a third screen, but the official name of the theater continued unchanged. The theater closed in the mid-1990s and the flea market soon after that. Its next-door neighbor was the Zayre Discount store and Wise Way Grocery Store. My family shopped there often. I wrote an article about those stores last year on my blog. Drive-in theaters made a huge comeback this year due to the pandemic. Many people went to certain places that were set up and enjoyed attending the films on the massive screen. Many people going to drive-in theaters will treasure those memories for the rest of their lives. Optimistically, they will stay open for a long time. We will see. I have a Facebook called Ford City Cinema/Double Drive-in from the 50s through the 80s. I post movie trailers and promotional posters. Thank you. Pete Kastanes, Admin for Vanished Chicagoland Facebook Page.