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Neighborhood Stories: 2nd Ward

Posted on: January 22, 2019

Lansing Drive-In Theater by Jackie Brandonisio

Drive in theater

Lansing Drive-In Theater

Located at 5509 S. Cedar St. Lansing, MI

Ward 2 (Southeast)

Ward Historian:  Jackie Brandonisio



Lansing Drive-In Theater held its grand opening on May 29th, 1948, with a ticket costing 60

cents, and free admission for children under the age of twelve. “Bella of San Angelo”, starring

singers Roy Rogers and Gene Autry, was the feature of the night. The lot, with a sizable

capacity for 700 cars (later upgraded to 998), was located on South Cedar Street, a block south

of Jolly Road. The business was seasonally operated and closed for the frigid winter months.


The theater made an effort to actively engage the Lansing community. Fireworks shows were

hosted on holidays such as Labor Day, and the public was often encouraged to vote for show

selections. A 1955 ad stated “If you are in accord with our thinking of a better selection and

variety of pictures, we urge you to express your vote for variety…”. The theater also took part in

promoting the post-war social hygiene movement, screening health films disguised as intriguing

dramas. The 1945 health film “Mom and Dad” was heavily advertised throughout 1948 and

1949, with a marquee exclaiming “It’s so human it’s heartbreaking!”. The movie emphasized the

importance of youth receiving a health education.


The theater changed ownership three different times. Initially opened by Laurence J Aubry, part

of the Lansing Drive-In corporation, it was later sold to James W. Blackburn in May of 1957.

Blackburn owned Lansing’s competing drive-in theater, The Starlite. Finally, in 1973 it was

purchased by Walter Scott Butterfield of W.S Butterfield Theaters Inc. Michigan State Professor

and Film Historian, Dr. Michael V. Doyle, refers to Mr. Butterfield as a “founding father of

Michigan’s theater industry”, operating 96 theaters by 1950. The theater eventually closed on

September 7th, 1981.


What did you learn that you found to be interesting or unique about this site while you were doing your research?

The Lansing Drive-In partook in promoting the post-war social hygiene movement, screening

health films such as the 1947 movie "Mom and Dad". Films such as this once were

educational films disguised as intriguing dramas. The screening were usually attended by

parents and their adolescents.


Sources:

Dozier, Vicki. “From the Archives: Lansing-Area Drive-Ins.” Lansing State Journal, USA Today,

16 Oct. 2015,

www.lansingstatejournal.com/story/life/2015/10/16/archives-lansing-area-drive-ins/74042798/

“Lansing Drive-In Theater.” Lansing State Journal, 12 July 1955, p. 16

“Outdoor Theater to Open Saturday.” Lansing State Journal, 27 May 1948, p. 11

“Drive In Purchased”. Lansing State Journal, 07 May 1957, p. 23

“An Announcement of Policy!”. Lansing State Journal, 17 April 1957, p. 42

“Lansing Drive-In.” Cinema Treasures, cinematreasures.org/theaters/28934.

“Fireworks Set for Drive-In on Labor Day”. Lansing State Journal, 03 September, p. 8

 Doyle, Michael V. Michigan Movie Theaters: A Pictorial History. Boreal Press, 20

Skrdla, Harry. Michigan's Drive-In Theaters . Arcadia Publishing, 2014.

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