Thunderbird Drive-In

5448 N. Tryon Street,
Charlotte, NC 28213

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Thunderbird Drive-In, Charlotte NC Remains of 1993

One of Charlotte’s last drive-ins. It was located at N. Tryon Street at Eastway Drive and opened on July 4, 1969 with Elvis Presley in “The Trouble With Girls”. Closed on December 10, 1983 with Patrick Magee in “The Black Cat”. It had the most elaborate neon sign of all the area drive-ins.

Contributed by Mark Huffstetler

Recent comments (view all 11 comments)

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on August 31, 2010 at 9:15 pm


Jay Morong
Jay Morong on June 17, 2012 at 2:15 am


Working on a project on “Lost” Charlotte Theaters for UNC-Charlotte where i am a faculty member. Would love to get a look at whatever pics you may have. You can send me an email at

rivest266 on October 28, 2013 at 10:34 pm

1971 USGS aerial uploaded.

binchwb on July 5, 2016 at 6:45 pm

The Thunderbird was the first drive-in theater I ever experienced. I was quite young at the time, but I recall seeing some great stuff there like Star Wars and Superman. I only recall ever going to see one other movie (although I’m sure there were others, but I’m pretty confident this was the last) – Firefox with Clint Eastwood. I was around 8 when I saw Superman there, having already seen it once before down the road at Tryon Mall. I remember playing on the swingset down in front of the screen, then getting a little freaked out when the cartoons started on the giant screen right above me (it was Knighty Knight Bugs).

When I was younger, horror films scared me sight-unseen, yet I found myself fascinated with them via magazines and later video stores – I wouldn’t rent them, but I would read all the boxes. In the early 80s, Creepshow played at the Thunderbird. I had read the comic book version at the bookstore, but the thought of seeing the movie scared me. On Eastway Dr, between The Plaza and Tryon, there was a bridge that went over some train tracks. If you looked off in the distance, you could see the Thunderbird’s screen pretty dead on. I remember riding in a car and forcing myself at the bridge to glance over when Creepshow was playing (it would have been a miracle if I could have made out what was on the screen).

I was a weird kid. I love that movie.

Although I’ve been to several other drive-ins over the years, this one has always seemed like the nicest one (rose-tinted memories, I guess).

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on November 5, 2016 at 2:36 am

great story BINCHWB..

markp on November 5, 2016 at 1:12 pm

Mike Rogers, what ever became of this site? retail? Condos? Nothing?

Ace_Hamilton on March 28, 2017 at 1:05 am

markp, I can answer that. It has become two huge parking lots with retail shops and medical offices.

rivest266 on January 19, 2020 at 10:15 pm

The Thunderbird Drive-In opened on July 10th, 1969 with “The Man from Nowhere”. Grand opening ad posted.

davidcoppock on January 20, 2020 at 4:13 am

Also opened with"Where were you when the lights went out?“.

Jay Morong
Jay Morong on July 1, 2020 at 7:37 am

Looks like the Theatre opened on July 4th, 1969 (a soft open maybe) with the Elvis film “The Trouble with Girls” (i have uploaded the Observer ad from July 4th), not the 10th as stated above. Looks like the film ran a week and then was replaced with “The Man From Nowhere” on the 11th. In addition it looks like the theatre closed in December of 1983 (not 86)? I found an article from 83 talking about it’s closure and i can find record of any films playing after December 10th (“The Black Cat”). I am not 100% on this but if you look at 1984 Observers it just says “closed” next to the Thunderbird.

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