Thunderbird Drive-In

5533 N. 59th Avenue,
Glendale, AZ 85301

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Fox West Coast Theatres, Mann Theatres

Nearby Theaters

Thunderbird Drive-In

The Thunderbird Drive-In was a large single screen drive-in located just north of Camelback Road on 59th Avenue. It was opened December 21, 1961 with Jerry Lewis in “The Errand Boy” & Leslie Phillips in “Beware of Children” (aka “No Kidding”). It was closed in September 1982.

Contributed by Dr. Jim Herndon

Recent comments (view all 12 comments)

rivest266 on January 7, 2011 at 5:26 pm

Aerial photo at View link
You can also see the Glendale 9 DI on the upper right of the picture.

rgbynet on July 24, 2012 at 9:47 am

While in the U.S. Air Force and stationed at Luke AFB in Glendale, Arizona between 1966 and 1969, I worked for awhile part-time at this theater in it’s snack bar. It was enjoyable. The staff was great. We worked hard but had many laughs at night’s end. I became life-long friends with it’s manager of eighteen years whose name is Dick Ahlbrandt. Dick worked for his company for an entire career of nearly forty years and was especially fond of the Thunderbird.

After the Thunderbird, my friend opened a brand-new “four-plex” in Mesa for the company and finished his working life after opening a brand new super-plex for them there. The guy, to this day, is an avid industry observer. We speak almost daily about films. Neither one of us seem to be able to get “the movies” out of our blood.

Yeah, the Thunderbird Drive-in holds fond memories for many of us!

Drive-In 54
Drive-In 54 on July 24, 2012 at 11:03 am

Goggle Earth 2011 One drive-in closes and another opens across the street.

rivest266 on November 14, 2015 at 6:38 pm

December 21st, 1961 grand opening ad in photo section.

tinyjq on January 3, 2017 at 6:57 pm

I worked there in the 70’s as did my brother. Met my first true love who also worked there. Lost a friend who was murdered while working there. Dick & you too Steve, were great to work for. In a way, we were a family & it was not just a job. Some of the best years of my life were spent there & movie passes were a wonderful benefit. Was a real loss to us when it closed. No movie experience now can even come close.

Shawn_B on August 11, 2017 at 8:51 pm

If you look at the semi-trapezoidal empty lot between 59th ave and 57th ave, along Missouri, not the large rectangular one to the east, you can see the outline of the parking area of the Thunderbird Drive In. I can see the two driveways and in between is where the screen was. I remember there was a lot of turquoise paint used there. Just to the east of the screen, you can see the concentric arcs that was the parking area.

davidcoppock on August 11, 2017 at 10:05 pm

Looking at the photo above, it looks like the Thunderbird Drive-in had 8 screens, not 1 screen!?

panhead55 on July 27, 2018 at 2:26 pm

Hello everyone. I am writing a historic article on this drive in and a few others from around town. I am all ears if anyone could give me some info and tell me about their experiences while working there. Thank you and I appreciate your help!

MichaelKilgore on January 30, 2020 at 6:29 am

A few more details from Boxoffice, Jan. 1, 1962: “This is the first outdoor theatre to be built from the ground up by (Fox West Coast Theatres). The theatre has a 114x55-foot screen, transitorized (sic) sound, illuminated speaker posts, and a children’s playground. … Two days before the formal opening, Fox held an open house offering a free screen program, free Pepsi-Cola, popcorn and pizza.”

MichaelKilgore on November 28, 2023 at 7:56 am

For the closing date, the last active listing I could find in the Arizona Republic was for the weekend of Sept. 10, 1982. That’s when the Thunderbird showed Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Poltergeist.

By 1985, the Republic was running stories about the “vacant” or “defunct” Thunderbird site.

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