Grande Drive-In

101 Grande Drive,
Sullivan, MO 63080

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Grande Drive-In

The Grande Drive-In opened on August 22, 1952 with John Derek in “Mask of the Avenger”. The car capacity was listed at 300. The drive-in was owned by Myron Woodcock and closed around 1984.

Contributed by Chris1982

Recent comments (view all 11 comments)

MichaelKilgore on April 17, 2019 at 1:05 pm

An even better address is 101 Grande Dr, since the drive-in was at the corner of the Service Road and present-day Grande Drive.

What was that building that jutted into its viewing arc on the northeast side? It looks like a motor court, which would have given a third of its tenants a view of the screen.

MichaelKilgore on June 23, 2019 at 5:04 pm

“Exhibitors seen along (St. Louis) Filmrow included … A. Schwartz, Grande Drive-In, Sullivan, Mo.” —BoxOffice, Aug. 29, 1953

MichaelKilgore on June 26, 2019 at 8:06 pm

I found the answer to that motor court. Sure enough, it was the New Grande Courts Motor Hotel, built in 1949 by Abe Schwartz. (Postcard here.) Since he owned both, I’ll bet that guests on the west side could see the movie.

The New Grande Courts later became the Hitching Post Motel, then the Family Motor Inn, and as of this writing, it’s a Motel 6.

MichaelKilgore on June 26, 2019 at 8:59 pm

A small Grand Opening ad for the Grande ran in the Franklin County Tribune (Union MO) on Aug. 22, 1952. The trade magazine The Exhibitor chimed in on Sept. 3 to say “In Sullivan, Mo., the Grande Drive-In has been opened by A. Schwartz, who also owns and operates the Grande Cafe and the Grande Tourist Court. His son, Eli Schwartz, is manager.”

But the local Sullivan Tri-County News, which should have had the best knowledge of the place, wrote that the Grande Drive-In finally opened on Sept. 10, 1952. I’ve uploaded the Grand Opening ad from the Sullivan Tri-County News of the Thursday before and checked the following week to see a normal ad for the Grande – no mention of any further delays.

The News' Sept. 4 front page story about the Grande said that Mr. A. Schwartz was the owner and E. Schwartz was the manager. The screen tower was 60 feet high, and there were “individual car speakers at each of the 300 parking stands.”

MichaelKilgore on June 26, 2019 at 9:24 pm

I don’t have a good closing date for the Grande except for what I read here on CT. USGS aerials showed in active in March 1980. The Motion Picture Almanac listed it through its final drive-in list in 1988, which means almost nothing. The MPA said it was owned by Eli Schwartz in 1955-66, Grande Invs. in 1977-82, and J. Jaeger in 1983-88. The ownership change in 1983 suggests it was open at least that long. A 1996 aerial showed the Grande dismantled by then.

Separately, Myron S. Woodcock’s obituary said he “owned and operated the Berwan Theatre and the Grande Drive-In, at Sullivan”.

MichaelKilgore on August 14, 2019 at 8:28 am

Yet another name, from the April 11, 1960 issue of Boxoffice: “Seen along Filmrow … Tommy Shaeffer, Grandee Drive-In, Sullivan, Mo.” The June 13, 1960 issue spelled the name “Tom Shaffer” but still called the drive-in the Grandee.

MichaelKilgore on June 18, 2020 at 9:38 am

And here’s one more name, from Motion Picture Exhibitor, April 17, 1957: “The Grandee (sic?) Drive-In, Sullivan, Mo., is being operated this season by Mr. and Mrs. High Graham, former Webster operators here (in St. Louis).”

kennerado on June 18, 2020 at 7:39 pm

MichaelKilgore the opening date of this drive-in is confusing, The Washington Missourian reported it opened on August 22nd 1952 with “Mask of the Avenger” plus a Stooges short and an unnamed cartoon. Then the St. Clair Chronicle advertised shows in early September and advertised the “Grand Opening” on September 10th 1952 with “The Second Woman” plus cartoons and shorts.

So it looks like it had a “Soft opening” on August 22nd with the grand opening on that September 10th date.

MichaelKilgore on January 14, 2021 at 9:34 pm

Kennerado is absolutely right about the Grande’s soft opening night. Here are a couple of other notes:

A “baby tornado” hit the Grande the afternoon of Oct. 8, 1959. The west wall was blown down, plenty of neon was wrecked, and the concession stand roof was “extensively damaged”. Yet “the show went on a usual” that night under the direction of 20-year-old owner-manager Tommy Shaffer.

Four years later, in October 1963, Shaffer was beaten and killed, his body found in roadside brush. A suspect was arrested in Kentucky, where he had been already wanted for an unrelated kidnapping case, and he was later tried on an unrelated murder of a St. Louis man.

Ted Siebenman managed the Grande in early 1965, and Myron Woodcock took over on July 1 that year.

MichaelKilgore on October 5, 2021 at 8:22 am

Over on the CT page about the indoor Berwan Theatre is a note that lines up with the MPA ownership change.

“My family owned the Berwan and Grande Drive In. It wass open through the late 1970s, then we closed it and eventually it was torn down. The Drive In stayed open a few more years—1981, 1982?—then we sold it as well. The new owners (don’t know their names) kept it open for one or two more seasons but eventually sold it and it too was demolished.”

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