Circle Autoscope Drive-In

2901 Carlisle Boulevard NE,
Albuquerque, NM 87101

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Circle Autoscope Drive-In

The Circle Autoscope Drive-In opened June 19, 1963 with James Stewart in “Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation” & Frank Sinatra in “Sergeants 3”. It had a short life as it was closed on September 7, 1964. It was mentioned in the documentary "Drive-In Movie Memories" in 2001.

Each of the 259 cars had one small screen to view the movie!

Contributed by Dave Bonan

Recent comments (view all 18 comments)

davidcoppock on October 23, 2018 at 8:04 am

Opened with “Mr Hobbs takes a vacation” and “Sergeants 3”. 260 cars. closed in(1965?) Date of demolition unknown? Site became a gardening suply company(for which a metal sign still stands). Site is now Carlisle Plaza Senior Mobile Home Park. There might still be the entrance and exit ramps and some sign mounts for the marquee and some short red, white and blue posts that separate the lot from the frontages on Carlisle and Claremont.

MichaelKilgore on April 19, 2019 at 3:39 pm

An aerial photo taken Sept. 20, 1967 shows the mobile home park already fully developed. The Circle Autoscope didn’t last long at all!

MichaelKilgore on June 28, 2019 at 2:20 pm

The July 1964 issue of International Projectionist had an article with details of the workings of the system, followed by this note: “Local 423 in August (1963?) signed its first contract with the Circle Drive-In Theatre. Under terms of the one-year agreement, some concessions were made because the project is experimental. The projectionist spends an average of 15 minutes per day checking the mirrors for alignment.”

MichaelKilgore on February 2, 2020 at 2:42 pm

Boxoffice, Jan. 21, 1963: “ALBUQUERQUE – The new Autoscope process of motion picture projection will get its first major city test here this spring if the city commission gives approval to the idea. … The proposed Autoscope Drive-In will consist of 259 individual screens, one for each parking place in the theatre. Each screen will measure 2½x4 feet. … The first screen line will be on the same level as the projection booth, about 150 feet apart. The second circle of rear-projection screens will be 74 feet behind the first and on a slight rise.”

kennerado on June 22, 2020 at 3:03 am

As far as I can see, newspapers ads for this drive-in ceased in September 1963, so it may have only been operating for 3 months!

MichaelKilgore on April 11, 2022 at 7:54 pm

A few more notes after combing through the Albuquerque Tribune and Albuquerque Journal. Ralph Moody was the manager when it opened, but Roger G. Steiger was the manager by late September, when Life magazine took “panoramic pictures” of the Circle and its patrons. I wonder if those are around somewhere.

The Autoscope might have been a victim of a price war. The Route 25 was advertising triple features for 90c per carload, and the Circle went from 99c a carload on Sept. 28 to as low as 80c for four shows on Oct. 19.

Although its name was typically shortened to just “Circle Drive-In,” the Autoscope continued advertising in the Albuquerque Tribune and Journal through Dec. 1, 1963. On Dec. 2, the Circle’s ad was gone.

davidcoppock on January 17, 2024 at 2:08 am

Did this drive-in theatre have a snack bar?

Denny Pine
Denny Pine on March 9, 2024 at 7:34 pm

The last ad I came across for the Circle was from The Albuquerque Journal on September 7, 1964. I just downloaded it in Photos

MichaelKilgore on March 10, 2024 at 2:11 pm

davidcoppock, the Grand Opening flyer in the photos here included “The most in fine food and snack bar refreshments”

Denny Pine, thanks for nailing down the Circle’s closing date. Here’s a memory of the place from the Albuquerque Tribune decades later (7/16/87):

“Even the oddball Circle Drive-In, also known as the Autoscope, is long gone. Located at 2900 Carlisle Blvd., N.E. in the early 1960s, the Circle projected movies via mirrors to a battery of 3-by-5 foot television-like screens, one in front of each car. But the Circle owners, who showed X-rated films at drive-ins in Joplin, Mo., didn’t realize the strength of Albuquerque winds. Evening breezes kept the Circle from ever working properly.”

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