Sunset Drive-In

12600 Old 66 Boulevard,
Carthage, MO 64836

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Sunset Drive-In

The Sunset Drive-In was opened on August 25, 1949 with Bud Abbott & Lou Costello in “Buck Privates”. It was operated by Clyde Leeson. It was still open in 1974. It had been demolished by 1997.

Contributed by James Monroe

Recent comments (view all 6 comments)

MichaelKilgore on February 25, 2019 at 1:11 pm

The first newspaper reference I could find was Nov. 15, 1949 when the Joplin Globe reported a benefit turkey shoot to be held “by Clyde Leeson, operator of Sunset Courts and Sunset Drive-In theater.”

The Theatre Catalog listed the Sunset’s capacity as 300, but the Motion Picture Almanac put it at 200.

The Sunset ad in the Carthage Press said that the Sept. 23, 1973 slate of Kansas City Bomber and Return of Sabata would be “the last showing for this season.” A church note from Jan. 26, 1974 casually mentioned that the 66 and the Sunset were (still) “in operation here.” I didn’t see any later drive-in ads, though the Sunset was the site of many group rummage sales listed in the want ads through at least 1976.

Anna Leeson’s obituary (June 28, 1988, Joplin Globe) said that she and her husband owned and operated the Sunset for 20 years. Clyde’s obit (April 13, 1981, Joplin Globe) also mentioned 20 years of operating the Sunset.

Kenmore on February 25, 2019 at 8:37 pm

Today, it is private property with only the faintest hints of ramps remaining. The drive-in was demolished some time before 1997.

A building sits on part of the projection booth/concession stand foundation. The rest of the foundation is still present on the north side of the building.

MichaelKilgore on June 14, 2019 at 8:58 am

Looks like 1949 was definitely the Sunset’s opening year. The Sept. 3, 1949 issue of BoxOffice includes the “350-car drive-in opened by Clyde Leeson” in Carthage in a list of theater openings.

MichaelKilgore on December 1, 2019 at 12:37 pm

Another hint that the Sunset wasn’t considered closed before the 1974 season comes from a note in the March 4, 1974 Boxoffice about movies at a local church. “Movies are offered Carthage area residents during the summer months by the 66 and Sunset drive-ins.”

50sSNIPES on February 11, 2024 at 9:19 am

The actual opening date is August 25, 1949 with Abbott and Costello in “Buck Privates” along with a few short subjects. It was owned by Clyde Lesson and originally housed 250 cars with Western Electric sound and Simplex 35mm projection.

MichaelKilgore on February 11, 2024 at 8:23 pm

I love your research, 50sSnipes, though I have seen so many references to the spelling Leeson, including an interview with his son.

I’m so glad that you found an opening date, which lines up well with the Boxoffice note. Where did you find it? If it’s a grand opening ad, could you post it?

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