Tonto Drive-In

Old W. Highway 66 and N. Adot Lane,
Winslow, AZ 86047

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Harry L. Nace Theatres

Nearby Theaters

No theaters found within 30 miles


The Tonto Drive-In was opened in October 1951 with Randolph Scott in “Colt .45” & Gordon MacRar in “Return of the Frontiersman”. It was closed on September 12, 1985 with Chevy Chase in “National Lampoon’s European Vacation” & John Candy in “Summer Rental”. As of May-2007, only the marquee was left. That may be gone by now as well. The Tonto Drive-In was on the outskirts of Winslow.

Contributed by Ken McIntyre

Recent comments (view all 11 comments)

TLSLOEWS on July 12, 2010 at 5:32 pm

Sad looking marquee shot of the Tonto Drive-in.

jwmovies on December 21, 2012 at 6:29 pm

Approx. location for this drive-in was Old W Highway 66 & N Adot Ln, Winslow, AZ 86047 across from the trailer park. Some ramps though barely visible are still there.

MichaelKilgore on February 6, 2019 at 3:05 pm

The Tribune News of Holbrook AZ ran a photo on April 2, 1981 showing that winds “gusting up to 60 miles per hour” knocked down the Tonto’s screen “last Thursday”, which would make it March 26, 1981.

The Winslow Mail ran a photo on May 21 that year showing the “80 foot by 40 foot steel structure” getting lifted into place. The caption said it replaced the destroyed wooden screen. “The drive-in will be opening in the very near future, according to Nolan G. Losey Sr., projectionist.”

MichaelKilgore on February 6, 2019 at 3:56 pm

The Winslow Mail wrote that the Tonto held its formal opening on Oct. 12, 1951. “The theatre, under the control of Nace Interests in Phoenix, will be managed locally by Rusty Bridge, manager of Winslow’s Rialto and Chief theaters.” Capacity was 300 at the start, but would be 500 “when finished”.

Ground-breaking ceremonies had been Aug. 31, and that really fast construction was under the direction of Michael A. Parker. Opening night movies were Colt 45, starring Randolph Scott, and Return of the Frontiersman with Julie London. Who would later marry Bobby Troup, who wrote the song Route 66.

In September 1983, Dean Branson in Flagstaff advertised in the Winslow Mail’s want ads for a resident manager for the Tonto.

The Tonto was still advertising in the Mail in September 1985, but not in 1986. In 1993, the Mail wrote that part of the movie Natural Born Killers was being shot at the “old” Tonto, so it had probably closed by then.

Historic Aerials shows the Tonto with its screen up, facing northwest, in 1953. Other photos show the Tonto still active in 1980, and the rebuilt screen up in 1997. That screen was gone by 2005.

The sad remnant of the marquee was still there as of July 2018, per Google Street View from I-40.

Motion Picture Almanac mentions:

  • 1952-66: capacity 300, owned by H. (Harry) L. Nace Theatres
  • 1969-76: no owner info
  • 1977-84: capacity 300, owned by Nace
  • 1985-88 (final drive-in list): owned by Blair & Reid
MichaelKilgore on May 19, 2019 at 9:30 pm

A note in the Nov. 10, 1982 issue of The Winslow Mail said that the Harry Nace Company sold six theaters, including the Rialto and Tonto Drive-In, to Blair and Reid Properties of Phoenix, effective Nov. 5.

MichaelKilgore on December 18, 2019 at 1:23 pm

Boxoffice, Sept. 15, 1951: “WINSLOW, ARIZ. – The Nace theatre interests will start construction here soon on a $50,000 drive-in to accommodate 500 cars. Vaughn Taylor, Nace manager, will be a partner-manager in the outdoorer, which will be operated by a staff of 15.”

Boxoffice, Sept. 29, 1951: “Construction is under way on Winslow’s first drive-in, the Tonto, with present plans calling for an opening the first week in October. The 500-car drive-in is being built on U.S. highway 66 by Michael A. Parker … The Tonto screen will be 60x55 feet, and the projection room and concession stand will be housed in a 36x40-foot building. … At recent ground-breaking ceremonies, Mayor F. C. Whipple turned the first shovel of earth.”

MichaelKilgore on January 10, 2020 at 1:44 pm

The Tonto’s screen was just 3000 feet from the end of one of the airport’s runways, so I wonder what Nace had in mind here? Not that the project was ever completed.

Boxoffice, July 30, 1955: “WINSLOW, ARIZ. – Construction of a drive-in adjacent to the Municipal Airport here has been halted after action by the city council to invoke a six-month cancellation clause in the lease agreement between the city and the Nace Interests of Phoenix. All construction materials have been removed from the site … objections raised by several Winslow citizens to the location of the drive-in caused the city council to demand the six-month termination of the lease … Clem Evans, construction foreman on the drive-in, said that the airer was to be completed in eight weeks. Concrete for the foundations was to be poured on the day work was halted.”

Chris on January 10, 2020 at 11:54 pm

Marquee still visible in August of 2019.

MichaelKilgore on July 13, 2021 at 6:30 pm

The Tonto’s final ad in the twice-a-week Winslow Mail was on Sept. 11, 1985, showing “European Vacation” and “Summer Rental.” It included a note “Rialto opens Friday”, so the switchover to the indoor theater happened after the Tonto’s last night on Sept. 12, 1985.

A reminiscent note in the Jan. 3, 1986 Mail included, “We took the boys to the Tonto Drive-In Theater. The best speakers were still up front. “The movie never starts on time,” Phyllis predicted to the boys. “Twenty minutes after it is supposed to start, everyone will honk their horns and then it will start.” Her memories of 1963 (Troy Donahue & Sandra Dee in A Summer Place) prove absolutely reliable predictors for 1985 (Richard Pryor in The Toy). She also predicted that at least one train would pass by in the middle of the movie. There were two. Progress, I suppose.”

davidcoppock on July 14, 2021 at 1:46 am

Was it named after Tonto from The Lone Ranger? Did they ever screen The lone Ranger at this drive-in?

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