Belt Drive-In

2219 N. Belt Highway,
St. Joseph, MO 64506

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Durwood Theatres Inc.

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Belt Drive-In

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.

Contributed by Randy Studer, MikeRogers

Recent comments (view all 8 comments)

Drive-In 54
Drive-In 54 on November 8, 2012 at 3:50 pm

Just updated with new ad from Kiddieland!

darkskies on February 8, 2013 at 4:44 pm

In case anyone is interested, as mentioned above by CSWalczak, my original St Joseph Memory Lane website on was deleted by Fortune City after being active for 12 years. They dropped all of their free websites, now only offering paid websites. The new St Joseph Memory Lane website address is For some reason, since the day that hurricane Sandy hit the east coast, people with AT&T internet service are not able to access the new website. I am hoping it’s just a temporary condition.

Buck Wilson
Buck Wilson on December 30, 2013 at 1:46 am

‘jwmovies’ comment is incorrect. The listed address of 2219 N. Belt Highway is correct. Plaza 8 Theaters currently occupies the lot.

MichaelKilgore on February 11, 2021 at 9:46 am

Boxoffice, July 19, 1947: “ST. JOSEPH, MO. - After a last-minute power scramble, Missouri Motor Movies, consisting of L. E. Pope, W. E. Whaley and C. H. Martin jr., all of Kansas City, opened their Belt Drive-In at the intersection of highways 71 and 36, one-half mile east of here with capacity crowds at three shows last Friday night. A party at Hotel Robidoux followed the first performance. Although three shows were offered opening night, the outdoorer will offer two shows nightly with a 50-cent admission. Although screen mountings and landscaping were still incomplete opening night, all equipment, including in-car speakers were installed. Six hundred cars in the 18-acre tract face the 30 by 40 foot screen.”

MichaelKilgore on September 15, 2021 at 4:08 pm

Not sure where this goes, since it’s probably not the Belt Drive-In, but it suggests that St. Joseph had some kind of drive-in in 1942.

Jefferson City Post-Tribune, Sept. 19, 1942: “ST. JOSEPH, Mo., Sept. 19 - (AP) - Policeman John Hartnett, 49, was injured critically last night when struck by a motor car as he was directing traffic near a drive-in theater on the Belt highway. He suffered seven leg fractures and a severe scalp laceration.”

MichaelKilgore on April 30, 2022 at 12:24 pm

Boxoffice, Aug. 6, 1955: “Edwin M. Gardiner, 63, manager of the Belt Highway Drive-In, died in a fire which broke out there Monday (1) night. He was suffocated in the windowless office when flames from an air conditioning unit blocked the only escape. The fire, which firemen believed was caused by faulty wiring of the air conditioner, occurred about 6 p. m. before the theatre had opened. Gardiner lived at Mission, Kas., was a former manager of the Shawnee Drive-In and had done promotion work for MGM in Oklahoma City. The Belt is a Durwood operation. Heavy glass bricks served instead of windows in the concrete block building.”

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