Bellevue Drive-In

6016 W. Plank Road,
Bellevue, IL 61604

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Kohlberg Theaters

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Photo credit Peoria Public Library.

The Bellevue Drive-In opened in 1948, and could originally accomodate about 750 cars. It was the largest drive-in in downstate Illinois at the time. It was operated by the General Drive-In Theatre Corporation.

In 1960, Chicago-based Kohlberg Theaters took over the Bellevue Drive-In and almost doubled its car capacity. In 1963, it had its moment in the spotlight when it hosted the world premiere of the drive-in kitschy-horror classic “Blood Feast”. However, later that decade and through the 1970’s, the Bellevue Drive-In would become known for screening mostly adult, and later, pornographic movies.

A fire in the late-1970’s destroyed the drive-in, and it was afterward demolished and replaced by what was to be a new K-Mart store. Oddly, K-Mart suddenly changed its mind and never opened the store. After sitting vacant for a number of years, the building became home to a mail order business, which it remains today.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 8 comments)

JeffCarlson on January 6, 2007 at 2:41 am

This drive-in opened on August 29, 1948 … it’s opening night feature was “Pirates of Monterey” starring Maria Montez and Rod Cameron. It’s original capacity was 750 vehicles but by the time it was purchased by Chicago exhibitor Stan Kohlberg in 1960 it had expanded to it’s final 1400 vehicle capacity.

scottfavareille on December 19, 2007 at 7:02 pm

The DVD of Blood Feast has both Dave Friedman & Herschell Gordon Lewis (producer & director of Blood Feast) talking about their “partnership” with Kohlberg on this film & two others. After that partnership dissolved, Friedman would partner with the late Dan Sonney & co-found the Pussycat Theaters chain of “adult movie houses”

JeffCarlson on January 22, 2010 at 1:32 am

Here’s a nice shot of the entrance:

View link

omalley on October 20, 2010 at 9:49 pm

I was captain of ushers at Bellevue Drive-In during my high school days in 1956-57. While at work one evening, a fellow usher and I decided to put our names up on the Hwy. 116 Marquee sign. Our purpose was to take a quick photo to submit to our high school yearbook. The sign read, “Bill O'Malley and Jerry White star in, The Life of Elvis Presley.” At work a month later, a girl concession worker showed the yearbook w/ picture to my boss Mr. Szold. (I was worried and thought I would be fired).
As it turned out Mr. Szold thanked me for my work done and complimented me on the publicity given to the Bellevue Drive-In.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on October 20, 2010 at 11:04 pm

Great Story.I too thought about putting my name on a Clint Eastwood Movie a couple of times.Snap a picture and take Clint’s name down,,oh I meant MINE.LOL.I had plenty of times to do it was just too lazy to go back up on the marquee,Really wish I had now,Hope you have the “ELVIS” picture.

vajobguy on June 20, 2017 at 7:02 am

This was my first job, I think I was 15. I made .95 cents an hour cleaning the lot. $1.05 working inside the concession stand. I made about $18 a week. However— we always checked the fences first, money would blow out of customer’s hands and collect on the chain link fence. That was good for about $25 per week.

We had to climb a rickety wooden ladder to change the lights on top of the screen. The lights bulbs were huge! They were 1000 watt incandescent light bulbs.
after we replaced them, we would drop the bad bulbs from the top of the screen onto the concrete, only the metal base was left and a lot of glass powder. Great first job.

Over the years as I look back, the older lady who ran the place named “Mimi” was always over the top. Nice lady, but she drove a new Cadillac and wore mink coats to collect the money at the front gate. (she kept a 38 in her purse) In the concession stand, even though we had cash registers we were not allowed ring up the total on the machines. It was always in our head! Mimi always took the cash deposits to the bank! Huummm. I guess when your 15 you don’t realize what’s going on.

Nice place, a lot of kids from the 1960’s owe their existence to the back lot of that drive-in.

But I wouldn' trade the experience for anything. Even the burnz-O-Matic car heaters in the winter were a blast. Almost literally. We had one catch on fire with about 150 bottles of butane in the enclosed heater room. Someone was watching out for a stupid 15-year-old!

davidcoppock on June 20, 2017 at 9:30 am

Was it ever known how the fire started?

DavidZornig on March 14, 2018 at 11:22 pm

Photo added credit Peoria Public Library.

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