2219 N. Belt Highway,
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Previously operated by: Durwood Theatres Inc.
The Belt Drive-In opened July 11, 1947, featuring “Breakfast in Hollywood” with Tom Breneman, Bonita Granville and Beulah Bondi. It was built by Missouri Motor Movies with headquarters in Kansas City, MO. L.E. Pope was the president and Chuck Martin was the manager. The Belt Drive-In was the first drive-in theatre to be built in St. Joseph. The parking ramp had a capacity of 550 cars with in-a-car speakers. Durwood Theatres eventually purchased the Belt Drive-In. Durwood owned and operated the Sky Lark Drive-In, and indoor theatres; Missouri Theatre, Electric Theatre, Orpheum Theatre and others.
On June 23, 1951, the Belt Kiddieland opened at the drive-in. Kiddieland’s were small amusement parks for the kids, mostly built besides the drive-in theatres or close by. Some were owned by the theatre owners while others were independently owned and operated. The Belt Kiddieland was owned by Durwood Theatres. It was in operation from 1951-1953 and was then renamed Kiddie Karnival from 1954-1957. In June of 1955, the Belt Drive-In started to screen CinemaScope movies. Beginning in 1958, Ashland Avenue Methodist Church started to hold drive-in church services at the drive-in each Sunday. This practice continued up to 1981.
Durwood Theatres consisted of Edward Durwood and his son Stanley H. Durwood, who joined the business in 1945 and became president in 1960. Stanley Durwood is credited with being the first to develop the concept of multiplex theatres in the 1950’s. In 1963, in the Ward Parkway Shopping Center in Kansas City, MO, the first twin indoor theatre (Parkway Twin) was opened. In 1969, the Durwood Theatres was reorganized and renamed AMC (American Multi-Cinema) to reflect the first multiplex theatre built in 1965 by Stanley Durwood. This followed the trend of multiplex theatres screening movies in the United States. Richard M. Durwood who was Stanley’s younger brother and VP of AMC, left in 1976 to start Crown Cinema Corp. in Kansas, MO. Richard then assumed ownership of the Sky Lark Drive-In and the Belt Drive-In.
Over the years the Belt Drive-In screened mostly family, comedies, westerns, adventure and drama films. It also showed a few ‘R’ rated movies such as “Babysitter” and “Fountain of Love”, but never screened any XXX adult movies. In July, 1982, a fire started in the freshly painted concession stand at the Sky Lark Drive-In and it was destroyed. The Sky Lark Drive-In closed, never to reopen. Since the Belt Drive-In was open, the thinking was that business would pick up. Business never did pick up steam and the Belt Drive-In closed in October 1982. The drive-in was demolished and the land was cleared. Crown Cinema Inc. redeveloped the property with a new multi-screen indoor theatre along with retail shopping stores.
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