Dearborn Drive-In - Michigandriveins.com

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Dearborn Drive-In Theater
Dearborn Heights Michigan
Michigan Drive-In Theaters - Michigandriveins.com
Name: Dearborn Drive-In
Address: 26500 Ford Rd. Dearborn Heights, MI 48127
County: Wayne
Open Date: 7/23/48
Close Date: 1984
Status: Demolished, retail stores now on site
Car Capacity: 1,200
Screen Count: 2
Owners: Wayne Amusements
Submit: Info On This Drive-In
Notes: n/a
Dearborn Drive-In

Dearborn Drive-In Theater
History & Comments

News Article: DEARBORN DRIVE-IN WILL OPEN TONIGHT - The Dearborn Drive-In Theater, Ford Road between Telegraph and Inkster, will open Friday Night at 7:30 p.m. The opening attraction will be "Frontier Girl", starring Yvonne DeCarlo and Andy Devine. The program will change three times weekly. (The Detroit News 7/23/48)

Status: It was opened in 1948 and at one time was the most profitable drive-in in the U.S. It was torn down April 1, 1986 at 9:52 a.m. (to be specific!) The Dearborn Drive-In was located next to my elementary school. Unfortunately, after the Drive In was torn down, the school came down too. Today, both sites house a Target department store, A huge Farmer Jack Grocery Store, and about 30 other retail stores. (Evil Sams Drive-In Theatre Guide/Joe Miller 1996)

Update: Originally built with double ramps and capacity of 1800 cars, remodeled in the early '60s single ramps installed lowered capacity to about 1200. (Evil Sams Drive-In Theatre Guide/Fredrick R. 1996)

Update: Gone, site is now a mall. (Whit Whitworth Dec 98)

Update: About 1975 or 6 we went to the Dearborn Drive-In often. My best friend, Bill, met and a few years later, married Lori, then the manager of the Dearborn Drive-In. She later took over management at the Calvin Theater in West Dearborn, MI. Management changed and she took over management of The Lakes Drive-In in Brighton, MI. She later took over management at the Howell Theatre in Howell, MI. Bill became manager of The Lakes. They offered me the opportunity to be projectionist. Wisper and Wetsman Theaters in Birmingham, MI. owned several theaters and drive-ins in my time from 1979 to 1985. Seasonally, I often helped board up The Lakes Drive-In, Mt. Pleasant Drive-In, The West Side Drive-In, The Walake Drive-In. In the mid 80s, from what I understand, one of the partners died. As the company's property leases expired and the surviving partner was getting on in years, I finally assisted in permantly closing each drive-in, and several of the company's theaters, down; taking apart projectors, packing splicers, disconnecting motorized and hand rewinders... I tried to get away with the intermission reels. No luck. As I see no mention of W&W Theaters I hope I've provided s ome noteworthy information. My memories of my Drive-In years are the most pleasant of my life. (dragonlordrulez@netzero.net 12/31/02)

Update: The Ecorse DI screen was destroyed by either a tornado, or straight line winds back in the summer of 1980. Some of you might recall the storm that rolled through the Detroit area early one morning while the Republicans were in Detroit to nominate Ronald Reagan. Not only was the screen destroyed, but the roof was torn off the office and left in a muffler shop parking lot farther down on Ecorse. The Ecorse wasn't the only DI that suffered damage from that storm, the Dearborn DI screen split in the middle near the top and the west side of the screen over-lapped the east side by about 18". And the high fence along the exit, near the screen at the Algiers DI was bent over at a 10 degree angle. (Fredrick R. 9/15/03)

Update:....Another costly F2 tornado occurred in the Allen Park and Ecorse areas on July 16, 1980. A number of buildings, as well as a train, were either damaged or destroyed by this tornado before it moved into Ontario. Total damage was estimated at over $5 million. (National Weather Service 9/15/03)

Update: Something that is not mentioned in the opening night ad, the Dearborn DI was originally built with double ramps. Instead of a single ramp with a drive on each side something like this -^-, the double ramp looked like this -^^-. The double ramps provided more capacity in a smaller area. However they were not popular with the public, less privacy and if the car in front of you didn't leave, you would have to back up to get off the ramp. When the new concession building was built the theater was converted to single ramps. The Algiers DI gained some double ramps in the rear of the theater in 1966 when the Quo Vadis was built.(Fredrick R. 8/15/04)

Update: Spent many evenings in the late '50s on dates and double dates, and in the '60s & '70s with my wife and kids. Great place for good, cheap entertainment. The Dearborn Drive-in was NOT in Dearborn. It was located in Dearborn Heights. (Brent Bachman 3/23/05)

Update: I worked at the Dearborn in 1983 and the spring of 84. Seeing your site really brought back some memories to numerous to mention. I still have my 65 Mustang fastback that I drove then. (Michael Yon 6/30/05)

Update: The former site of the Dearborn Drive-In is currently occupied by a Target store, a Farmer Jack store, and a mall. (Michigandriveins.com 11/30/05)

Update: Some people may remember that there was a large empty field right next to the Dearborn drive in, to the west of it. At one time this field contained a half guage or quarter gage railroad that ran round a quarter mile or half mile track. Rides on the train were included in the price of the movie ticket. I think these tracks were removed before 1970, however. I don't remember the double ramps, but perhaps my parents do. Also, the property that makes up the Target and the Heights Shopping center were not simply constituted by the school (Wellever, wasn't it?) and the drive in. There was also a day camp that sat on about two or three acres to the east of the drive in. It was called "Real Life Day Camp" and as I'm sure you must remember that the Day Camp's claim to fame was that on it's property were a Sherman Tank, the remains of some sort of WWII fighter plane and a jeep and various other derlict vehicles that the kids could scamper about on. The day camp also featured on three story building and two swimming pools. I attended this day camp for one, one week session and discovered that the people who ran it were cold hearted and seemed to hate the very children that their livelyhoods depended on. I had a blast playing on all the war surplus junk though. I actually got my dad over there to get into that tank with me before they carted it off. He worked on the darned things in the motor pool at Fort Hood in Texas. We had a great time. He explained to me all about how they worked and how they were driven and what it was like to be inside one when it was running and the gun was blazing away. Pretty neet. Also, I remember distinctly that the turet on that tank still worked. I am amazed that none of us ever chewed our fingers off or anything. The Dearborn was and always will be my favorite drive in theater though. Probably because I saw hundreds of movies there. It was such a communal experience compared to seeing a movie at an indoor theater. It's hard for me to think abou these things without getting all choaked up. We will never see wonderful old broads like the Dearborn DI again. (Louis Sequin 9/13/06)

Update: Please forgive me, I know this is picking at nits, but the Target pictured in the Dearborn's set of photos does not sit on the site of the Dearborn drive in. The Target sits on the site of the school that was to the west of the DI. I think, in fact, that the Target was built before the DI was torn down. The Heights shopping center sits on the site of the Dearborn DI. The two properties are unrelated and still listed as seperate lots of real estate. Also, as I mentioned before the little sub portion of the mall that sits to the East was the third to be built and also does not sit on the site of the Dearborn DI. It sits on the former site of the Real Life Day Camp. These two lots have been combined, I believe they are now listed as a single property. Stores have not done very well in this mall, only about 4 of the original stores in The Heights main section are original and only one of the stores in the sub section is original. When the Farmer Jack's closes, which A&P will do sooner or later, if they cannot sell the chain, you can expect this mall to Tank and grave yard. They made a huge mistake with this mall when they built it with its back to the Target rather than its front side. They did this because they had not yet procured the Day Camp lot. Had they built the mall facing the Target and not gotten the daycamp lot they would have lost some 15 or 20 store fronts. Still, it was a huge mistake and it's very odd to see the backends of all those stores when you are in the Target parking lot. (Louis Sequin 9/20/06)


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