Arroyo Drive-In

321 S. Broadway,
Cortez, CO 81321

300 cars

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Allen Theatres

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No theaters found within 30 miles

Arroyo Drive-In

The Arroyo Drive-In was opened by June 1959. It was closed in July 1961.

Contributed by Ken Roe

Recent comments (view all 11 comments)

cc44 on December 21, 2013 at 3:36 pm

This drive-in opened in 1952.

MichaelKilgore on June 21, 2019 at 6:48 am

The Arroyo debuted in the 1951 Film Daily Year Book.

The 1952 Theatre Catalog listed the Arroyo, capacity 500, “Exec: Owen Maxey, Mgr.” The 1955-56 Catalog lowered the capacity to 300 and changed the Exec to Mr. and Mrs. Torenzio Gai.

Motion Picture Almanac appearances for the Arroyo:

  • 1953-66: capacity 300, owner E. H. Davison
  • 1967-76: 300 (no owner info)
  • 1977-82: 350, Allen Ths.
  • 1983-88: 1 screen, Allen Theas.

The Arroyo was not included in Allen Theatres' holdings in the circuits section of the 1977-82 MPAs, but arrived in the 1983 edition. Maybe for once the drive-in list guy knew more than the circuit list guy?

MichaelKilgore on June 21, 2019 at 6:57 am

Some kind of drive-in was open in Cortez in 1949. Did it become the Arroyo? From the Nov. 12, 1949 issue of BoxOffice: “CORTEZ, COLO. – The Independent Drive-In Theatre near here has been closed for the season, according to Phillip Belt, owner.”

MichaelKilgore on September 11, 2019 at 8:31 am

There’s a magnificent article by Mark Wolfe in the Winter 2007 issue of Colorado Heritage, although he mistook the Arroyo’s April 17, 1952 season-opening ad (clearly marked as “Spring Opening”) for the grand opening. The article, “Silver Screens Under Starry Skies,” is hard to find (cough Google), but here are the high points:

Edward Davidson built the Arroyo, which held 300 cars. In 1952, Terenzio and Anna Gai bought a half-interest, and they eventually became its sole owners. In the “early ‘60s,” their daughter Margory acquired the Arroyo along with the rest of the town’s theaters.

In 1967, Margory Gai sold the Arroyo along with Cortez’s indoor theaters to Allen Theatres, started by Lane Allen of Farmington. “In 1988 Lee (sic?) learned that it would cost him $7,500 to repaint the screen, and he decided to close the theater.” He gave the sign to a local collector.

MichaelKilgore on December 13, 2019 at 9:28 am

Spending some time with Cortez Sentinel issues from 1950, I learned a few things:

After a few misfires, the Arroya opened on Sept. 3, 1950 with the movie El Paso.

All along the way, every reference used an A at the end of that name. Perhaps someone later told the owners that “arroya” isn’t a word, because just two weeks after the grand opening, the ads changed to Arroyo.

The Arroyo was on the northeast side of town, approximately 948 Lebanon Road.

MichaelKilgore on February 6, 2020 at 10:34 am

The Dove Creek (CO) Press, March 6, 1953: “Three theatres in Cortez were purchased last week from the John Survant estate by Mr. and Mrs. T. Gai of Yellow Jacket, Colo. The AnLe, Cortez and Arroyo Drive-In Theatres … the Drive-in theatre will open (for the season) Friday, April 17th according to word from George Armstrong, manager of the Gai theatres.”

MichaelKilgore on May 1, 2020 at 11:39 am

Years later, under different ownership, it happened again. On Feb. 17, 1955, the Eagle Valley Enterprise ran a huge, far-ranging supplement called “Colorado Plateau – Fabulous Treasure House of Energy,” which included pages on communities all over western Colorado. In the Cortez section, Terenzio Gai had a display ad touting the T. Gai Warehouse in Yellow Jacket and the Gai Theaters in Cortez, which included the Anle and the “Arroya Drive-In”. If I hadn’t seen a photo of its old sign, I’d really start to wonder how they spelled their name.

davidcoppock on May 2, 2020 at 8:43 am

The drive-in was susposed to open on 27/8/1950, but was delayed due to circumstances beyond their control. Why the name Arroyo?

MichaelKilgore on May 2, 2020 at 12:26 pm

Let me look at my Cortez Sentinel scans again. On Aug. 5, 1950, a cable snapped as workers were lifting the wooden screen tower into place, with the tower’s fall “splintering” the pre-fab structure. Local theater manager Owen Maxey couldn’t predict how long the opening would be delayed. A few more notes from the Sentinel article a few days later are that it correctly spelled the Arroyo, which was being built by John Survant, who owned the Cortez indoor theatres, and it was “at the junction of the Lebanon road and highway 160” on the north_west_ side of town. (Oops, my mistake earlier.)

A grand-opening front-page story two weeks later misspelled the name “Arroya,” as did a huge ad within, inaccurately promising to show the movie “Albuquerque” that night. The following week included a smaller ad apologizing for that delay and getting the grand opening date right this time. Two weeks after opening, the ad spelling was finally corrected to “Arroyo”.

When I look at Google Street View of the former site on Lebanon Road just north of then-US 160, now-US 491, the steep hills on the other side of the highway look a little like an arroyo created by the highway department instead of by a fast-moving stream. If I squint.

MichaelKilgore on July 20, 2020 at 12:17 pm

My continuing quest to find newspaper ads for this drive-in led me to the nearby Dolores Star. My spot-checking found ads, along with the indoor AnLe, in June 1959, July 1960, and June 1961. Perhaps continuing its 1955 spelling, all three ads called it the “Arroya”.

Unfortunately, the two theaters stopped advertising in the Star after the July 7, 1961 issue. A spot check of June 1962 failed to find any theater ads.

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