Once Upon a Passion Pit: The Ghosts of Drive-Ins Past

The steel orchards of speaker posts have been clear-cut. The clattering, whirring projectors have been scrapped. The smells of popcorn and hotdogs have long since been replaced by the smell of automobile exhaust. And the sounds of Rock and Doris wooing and the Duke “Pilgrim”ing have yielded to the sounds of boom cars thumping and smartphones ringing.

But a few relics of Fort Worth’s drive-in theaters can still be found.

south side twin newspaper ad drive-ins 1975For example, the concessions and projection building of the South Side Twin on Old Hemphill Road are now part of Treasure Island flea market.

pike aerialOn East Lancaster Avenue the concentric, undulating parking ramps of the Pike can still be seen on the ground and from the air.

The Pike opened in 1947, named for the Fort Worth-Dallas Pike, which was replaced by today’s U.S. 180. (Photo from University of Texas at Arlington Library Special Collections.)

The concrete foundation of the ticket kiosks are all that remain of the Mansfield Road drive-in theater on Seminary Drive.

The Mansfield Road drive-in theater opened in 1950 as “an entertainment wonderland.”

2020 update: The concrete foundation of the ticket kiosks is gone. A church now occupies the site of the Mansfield drive-in theater. Part of the concrete foundation of the concession stand/projection room can be seen from the air.

twin ringsIn a bend of Sycamore Creek just east of Riverside Drive and north of Lancaster Avenue near a natural gas well, from the air you can still make out the concentric curved parking ramps of the Fort Worth Twin.

meadowbrook screenAnd, finally, on Riverside Drive just north of the Fort Worth Twin was the Meadowbrook drive-in theater. Its screen stood alongside the original channel of Sycamore Creek where the creek flowed into the original Trinity River channel before flood-control measures of the 1950s and 1960s.

The Meadowbrook opened in the summer of 1953.

For a while the Meadowbrook had a stage for live entertainment, including “Ft. Worth’s own Pat Boone.”

After the Meadowbrook closed, its sign on Riverside Drive was eventually obscured by trees. Why the bicycle on a pole? The drive-in property was later a bicycle park.

riverside dumpsters

The property was later a holding area for Waste Management Company.

meadowbrook dumpstersWhere once cars of young couples parked in rows later were rows of parked  mobile garbage bins, as if waiting for the first feature to start. (“We wanna see a trashy movie!” “Yeah! We wanna see Dumpster Does Dallas!”)

The closing credits eventually will roll for what remains of the Meadowbrook. The property is destined to become part of the expanded Gateway Park. The property has been cleared of the dozens of mobile garbage bins. After sixty-eight years the screen, obscured from view on three sides by trees, has become a temporary home for people experiencing homelessness and their dogs. In the bottom photo, the big blue and yellow “Meadowbrook” sign on Riverside Drive, also obscured by trees, also has become a temporary shelter.

This page of movie listings from 1953 is a snapshot of movie stars and theaters of sixty-eight years ago.

newspaper ad drive-ins 1975

Fast-forward to 1975. These were the drive-in theaters still in business.

Drive-in movie theater concession stand commercial:

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4 Responses to Once Upon a Passion Pit: The Ghosts of Drive-Ins Past

  1. Mellinda says:

    I actually liked this one.

  2. James says:

    There is what looks like an abandoned drive in movie theater on Riverside going north by I-30 right next to the river. Is that one of them that you have listed here? Or, was that something different?

  3. Larry Martinez says:

    SO MANY memories of the drive-in theatres that operated in Fort Worth back in the ’70s! My now-sainted Mom and I usually went to one if I saw an exciting-looking movie trailer on tv or if we wanted to get out of the house for a couple of hours.

    We visited several local “ozoners”; the Southside Twin, the Mansfield Twin, the Downtown, the Meadowbrook, and the Belknap. But our favorite (and the closest to our house at that time) was the good ol’ Fort Worth Twin. We saw such movies as ‘Zardoz’, the original ‘Rollerball’, and ‘Warlords of Atlantis’ there, the latter movie being the last time we went to a drive-in (in 1978).

    The drive-in theatre has been, is, and will always be one of my GREAT passions!

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