Downs Drive-In

2510 W. Main Street,
Grand Prairie, TX 75050

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MichaelKilgore on April 30, 2022 at 12:57 pm

An omen of its larger fire 18 months later.

Boxoffice, Aug. 6, 1955: “Filmgoers waiting to see a triple feature horror show at the Downs Drive-In, Grand Prairie, on Highway 80 got a bonus thrill. Minutes before the start of the show wires shorted in an electrically controlled "Magnetic Monster” neon sign behind the screen. Patrons watched firemen climb ladders through black smoke for 15 minutes. Then they settled back for tamer entertainment on the screen."

MichaelKilgore on November 10, 2021 at 4:52 pm

Boxoffice, April 28, 1969: “McLendon Theatres has purchased the East Main Drive-In in Grand Prairie, near the Dallas city limits, and the Downs Drive-In, also in Grand Prairie … The Downs will be rebuilt into a four-screen drive-in … The Downs, after the reconstruction, will be renamed Century 4."

davidcoppock on September 27, 2020 at 11:15 am

Closed on 20/1/1970 with “Flare up” and “Speedway”.

MichaelKilgore on August 14, 2019 at 9:46 pm

I’m surprised I found anything to add to dallasmovietheaters' report, but we can shoehorn this tidbit from the July 4, 1960 issue of Boxoffice:

“Tim Ferguson, president of the Texas Drive-In Theatre Owners Ass'n, is among the first exhibitors in the state to capitalize on the current trampoline craze… Ferguson has constructed a trampoline center at his Downs Drive-In at Grand Prairie, calling it the Ups ‘n Downs.”

dallasmovietheaters on October 24, 2013 at 7:12 pm

In 1949, the Downs Drive-in at 2510 W. Main St. in Grand Prairie became the third drive-in theater to open in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Its original screen burned and was replaced in 1957. And not long after being sold to a new owner, it closed on January 20, 1970, was bulldozed and replaced by the newly-named Century Drive-in which opened June 13th, 1970. It closed in 1987 and was later bulldozed.

The Downs was started and operated by Tim G. Ferguson, Truman Hendrix and H.S. Ferguson. The Downs was named after the nearby Arlington Downs Racetrack which had opened in 1929 and whose racetrack and grandstand extended eastward toward the drive-in less than a mile away. Located midway between Dallas and Fort Worth and with Irving within striking distance to the North, the Downs was well positioned. The opening of a GM factory in 1951 just across the way would soon add to the traffic and visibility of the area.

Ferguson complained about the availability of first-run film titles at his theater and brought a $150,000 Sherman Antitrust-based lawsuit against the five Grand Prairie theater owners as well as the major film studios. Ferguson’s drive to have more of a voice for drive-in theaters generally led him to become a founder and president of the Texas Drive-in Theater Owners Association.

The Downs theater tower burned to the ground in a spectacular 4-alarm fire on January 19, 1957 where the film “Fury at Gun Sight Pass” was playing. Fortunately, motorists backed away and were unharmed by the $15,000 fire. The fire was attributed to the high winds combined with the screen tower’s neon lights which were excised from the redesigned screen tower. The Downs racetrack closed in 1958 but the theater retained its name.

The theater’s positioning as a family-friendly spot was enhanced by its “Candy Cane City” amusement playground. The opening of a larger park — Six Flags theme park — in 1961 provided yet more family-centric traffic near the Downs which continued to thrive in the decade. Its success led the McLendon Theater Circuit to purchase the theater with grander plans. As the multiplex era of indoor theaters was beginning and with twin and triple screen drive-ins propping up, McLendon decided to one up the other drive-ins. It would demolish the Downs not long after January 20, 1970’s double feature of “Flare Up” and “Speedway”.

McLendon would create what it called the world’s largest drive-in and first four-screener. With the Arlington Downs a distant memory as a neighboring entity, the newly named Century Drive-In would begin business on June 13, 1970 with “Beneath The Planet of the Apes” with “The Undefeated” and “Two Mules for Sister Sara” with “Topaz”. With four screens with 500 spots each at its opening, the theater did well enough to merit an additional fifth screen. The Century would go on 17 years until 1987 before being bulldozed. The nearly 40 years of drive-in exhibition for the Century/Downs makes it the area’s longest standing addresses for nearly continuous and certainly consecutive years of outdoor operation.

drivein2001 on March 25, 2011 at 10:54 pm

A Photostatic copy of the Photo I have from the GPHS yearbook is now up on flickr with a History & description of the Drive In & the photo itself. Enjoy! Randy A Carlisle..Historical Photographer
RAC Photography .. View link ..

drivein2001 on November 16, 2010 at 6:36 pm

What originally opened as the DOWNS Drive In Theatre was later Changed to the CENTURY 4 Drive In. I believe McClendon bought this Drive In & then adding 3 more screens making it a 4 Screen Theatre. I’ve read that he also added an Indoor Theatre on the lot making this a 5 Screen Theatre..
Today, A warehouse type building occupies the land. Nothing of the Drive In remains.
I have a photo of the back of the screen when it was the DOWNS Drive In that was taken from the Grand Prairie High School yearbook from around 1964?

Randy A. Carlisle
Historical Photographer .. Enjoy!

jamestv on June 6, 2010 at 8:07 pm

The Downs Drive-In closed in the late ‘60’s and was demolished to make way for the Century 4 Drive-In in 1970.

TLSLOEWS on December 13, 2009 at 7:00 pm

I wonder how many walk ins they could hold?

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on December 12, 2009 at 9:40 pm

GEEZ, I don’t know about all those forms of transportation.

TLSLOEWS on December 10, 2009 at 6:03 pm

It parked 400 cars, but how many buses and R.V.’s. Just a joke!Also how many compact cars?What about bikes,and boats?

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on December 6, 2009 at 2:28 pm

The DOWNS DRIVE IN in 1956 parked 400 as mentioned above and was owned in the late 50’s by Down Theatre Company.

Don Lewis
Don Lewis on March 19, 2009 at 1:15 am

An old movie theater ad from 1949 for the Downs Drive-In Theater in Grand Prairie.