US 23 Drive-in Still Iconic as Drive-In Movie Theaters Fade Away
Some of the best memories I have as a kid involved a drive-in theater. My parents would pack the car with snacks and I would climb in wearing my jammies knowing that after the first movie was over it was bedtime in the back seat for me.
Back in the day, parents could take the whole family to the drive-in to enjoy 2 movies for a fraction of the price of just one ticket to a movie theater today. You brought your own snacks, cuddled in the back of the open hatch, and watched the latest release under the stars.
Today, there are only 321 drive-in movie theaters left in the United States. That's a huge drop from some 4000 theaters that spanned the U.S. back in the 1950s when they were all the rage. Michigan currently has 8 drive-in theaters still operating, including the Ford-Wyoming Drive-in in Dearborn, which is the largest in the world with five screens. Still, there is something about our hometown drive-in that makes it the best around.
US 23 Drive-In Theater
Genesee County is lucky enough to still spend movie nights at the iconic US 23 Drive-in. Located on Fenton Road, US 23 was opened in 1951, after over a year of construction, with an ornate single screen with a built-in 5-room apartment for the manager. They added a second screen in 1986.
It was in 1997 that an arson fire destroyed the huge main screen. That screen was replaced that year with the remaining pieces of what had formed the second screen. A third screen was added in 2009.
According to Carload.com, the original neon sign and marquee, which used to point to even more neon along with the original screen tower, is one of the finest surviving 1950s drive-in signs in existence.
Pretty cool to have a major piece of Americana still doing what they do best, entertaining families, right here in our own backyard.
Take a look at a past interview with late owner Lou Warrington Jr. and get a glimpse of what the great old screen looked like before it burned down, and how things were back in 2010.