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Drive-In Theaters

The Bourbon Drive-In Theater, located on U.S. 68 just outside of Paris (Bourbon County). In the 1950s, Kentuckians flocked to drive-in theaters to enjoy the latest movies from the comfort of their own automobiles.  While there were only 16 drive-in theaters in the state in 1948, 10 years later there were approximately 117 drive-in theaters along Kentucky’s major highways.  Typically, these theaters were located on the edge of a town on a major arterial roadway marked by a theater marquee (sign) for maximum visibility. Buccaneer Drive-In marquee, U.S. 25, Madison County, now closed.

Drive-in theater grounds were usually 10 to 20 acres.  The first element the motorist would notice when approaching the theater was, of course, the gigantic screen onto which movies were projected from a small projection booth.  It was common for the projection booth to share space with the concession stand.  Much of the theater’s profits came from sale of candy, soft drinks, hamburgers, french fries and popcorn peddled during the movie intermission or prior to the main film.

Speakers at the Stanford Drive-In(originally the Davis), located on KY 78 in Lincoln County. Frequently, cartoon features were shown before the main adult movie, in order to entertain children before they supposedly fell asleep in the back of the family car.

Entry into the viewing space came from a ticket booth situated to intercept all incoming vehicles.  Upon paying the inexpensive per-carload fee, the automobile could travel along a series of paved ramps that encircled the screen.  The driver could then pull up to a speaker post through which to hear the movie’s sound.  Like other types of roadside commercial architecture of the 1950s, the theater’s projection booth, ticket stand and marquee were all decorated with exaggerated features meant to imply speed, progress and modernity.

The Skyvue Drive-In Theater on U.S. 60 in Clark County on the outskirts of Lexington has been in operation since the 1950s, with a neon marquee typical of drive-in theaters in Kentucky.

The layout of the Skyvue Drive-In is typical with the viewing screen in the center surrounded by semi-circular ramps.


Last Updated 3/17/2008