Drive-In theaters along Route 66

66 Drive-In Theater in Carthage, Missouri
Above: 66 Drive-In Theater in Carthage, Missouri.

Icons of Route 66, open-air theatres blossomed along the historic route in the 1950s, from Chicago to Los Angeles. Nowadays, most are sadly abandoned and overgrown, with their giant screen stranded the middle of a field. Such was the stated of the very ghostly "Tepee Drive-In Movie Theater" west of Sapulpa, Oklahoma, abandoned on the roadside.

Tepee Drive-In Movie Theater, Sapulpa OK
Above: Tepee Drive-In Movie Theater in Sapulpa, Oklahoma.

Those kept in service are an oddity these days. Not even a handful is left on Route 66. Among them, one of the best restored -and operational- stands near Route 66 in Carthage, Missouri. Opened in 1949, it was closed in 1984 before being carefully renovated and reopened in 1998. Sessions are on from Friday to Sunday. The session costs just $7.

66 Drive-In Theatre, Carthage MO
Above: Carthage, Missouri. 66 Drive-In Theatre.

Invented in the United States, in Camden, New Jersey, in 1932, drive-in theaters are vast landscaped parks - mostly unpaved and covered with grass. Outdoors, they are arranged around a gigantic screen (often a single wall painted white, seldom a more complex metal structure) facing the onlooking rows of cars.

Admiral Twin Drive-In, Tulsa OK
Above: Tulsa, Oklahoma. Admiral Twin Drive-In.

Initially, sound was provided by speakers hooked to the screen; later, by small, wired portable speakers set in each parking space for drivers to hang from their rolled-down window panes. Along the same lines, small mobile heaters were also available. Today, the movie soundtrack is available on a dedicated FM radio channel.

Route 66 museum, Eureka MO
Above: Mobile speaker exhibited at the museum on Route 66 from Missouri to Eureka.

They are the ghostly witnesses of the golden age of the automobile, when television sets did not exist and movie theaters were not air-conditioned. At time when people, families or couples, embraced in the privacy of their vehicles … so many mythical movie scenes were shot in such settings!

Skyview Drive-In Theater, Litchfield IL
Above: Litchfield, Illinois. Skyview Drive-In Theater.
Route 66 Twin Drive-In Theatre, Springfield IL
Above: Springfield, Illinois. Route 66 Twin Drive-In Theatre.