Captain Kidd Drive-In

1500 E. David Road,
Kettering, OH 45429

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Captain Kidd Drive-In

Early in January of 1965, 107 acres of land were bought between Hempstead Road and the Washington township line by Sam Levin (dba Levin Services). It was discovered that Levin Theatres was involved in buying land and that they intended to build a drive-in theatre on a portion of the property. Unfortunately, before the month was over, the Kettering city council passed ordinances designed to try and stop the drive-in theatre from being built. The city planners wanted an industrial park to be built on the site, instead of a drive-in theatre. An industrial park would have provided the city of Kettering with a larger tax base and more jobs, than a drive-in theatre. After six years of continuing litigation, Common Pleas Judge J. Paul Brenton ruled in 1971, that the delays were “unreasonable and a violation of due process of law". The City of Kettering applied to the Second District Court of Appeals, which upheld the Common Pleas court ruling. The Ohio Supreme court one year later refused to hear the case.

After ten years of debate and legal problems, the Captain Kidd Drive-In opened on May 2, 1975, screening the 1974 comedy “The Groove Tube” with Ken Shapiro, Richard Belzer and Chevy Chase. The second feature was the 1973 drama “Cinderella Liberty” with James Caan and Marsha Mason. Built at a cost of a million dollars, no expense was spared in constructing one of the most beautiful and unusual drive-in theatre in the Dayton area. The pirate ship décor, which include a ship’s steering wheel, anchors and port holes, drew people to the refreshment stand. The Captain Kidd’s screen was 112 ft. x 50 ft. along with the parking ramps could hold 800 cars. The Captain Kidd Drive-In was first in the Dayton area to introduce a new sound process, called “Cinema Radio” by its inventor, Fred Schwartz. “Cinema Radio” was operated through a special cable installed just beneath the surface of the drive-in parking ramps. The audio would be picked up on the movie patron’s car radio. Unfortunately it did not work very well because of interference from the local radio stations in the area. The Captain Kidd installed new in-a-car speakers along with using “Cinema Radio” in 1976.

The Captain Kidd did have its share of rowdy patrons. In a 1978 interview John Seitz manager of the drive-in at the time, stated that he sometimes had trouble dealing with some of the kids who frequented the theatre. People who never drink come out here to do their drinking. “We’re the biggest under-21 bar in town” added the assistant manager, Kim Young. That kind of behaver is one of the reasons why drive-in theatres lost the families coming to the drive-ins. The short lived Captain Kidd Drive-In screened its last movie on May 30, 1988, screening “Good Morning Vietnam” and was decommissioned for good. The drive-in theatre was demolished and the property was sold. Levin Services said the property was getting too valuable to keep as a drive-in theatre. Gary Castle, the Captain Kidd manager for the last nine years, said the residents of recently built homes near the theatre have complained occasionally about the noise. He said the drive-in has been a great place to work. “It’s unfortunate our location wasn’t the best” Castle said. “We’re always getting people who are shocked at how nice the place is. They say they never knew we were here.”

Some Source Material: Greater Dayton Drive-In Theatres by Curt Dalton

Contributed by Randy Studer

Recent comments (view all 12 comments)

davidcoppock on November 5, 2018 at 1:22 am

Why the name Captain Kidd?

jwmovies on April 7, 2019 at 7:17 am

The address above is incorrect. Hempstead Station Rd. did not exist when this theater was open.

The ads are correct. The address for this theater is 1500 E David Rd, Kettering, OH 45429. This points directly to the entrance road part of which is still visible. This drive in had a very long driveway which probably adds to the confusion.

Please update.

davidcoppock on April 7, 2019 at 12:51 pm

The Kettering City Council have got the industrial park they wanted in the end anyway.

Drive-In 54
Drive-In 54 on April 7, 2019 at 1:11 pm

Look at the address on the Grand Opening ad…SMH

meheuck on August 1, 2019 at 10:59 am

davidcoppock: Levin Services had a similar pirate-themed drive-in in Cincinnati near the Tri-County area called the Jolly Roger, so they clearly had a theme in mind by naming this one the Captain Kidd. From the dates of the history, they were probably intended to open at the same time in a big splash, but the impedences Kettering made thwarted that plan. I wonder if Levin Services had other pirate-themed drive-ins in Ohio?

meheuck on January 31, 2021 at 2:16 am

I just finally got confirmation that in the early ‘80s, Levin Services renamed the Auto-In on 2501 Anderson Ferry Rd. as the Captain Kidd, I guess intending it as a Cincinnati cousin to this Kettering location. That’s what confused me for years, since the “new” Captain Kidd came about shortly after the closing of the Tri-County located Jolly Roger.

Drive-In 54
Drive-In 54 on January 31, 2021 at 3:11 am

Levin Services never owned/operated the Auto-In or renamed it to the Captain Kidd. The ad was misprint.

Drive-In 54
Drive-In 54 on January 31, 2021 at 3:24 am

GPS: 39.674803, - 84.138820

Bowman78 on April 15, 2021 at 1:04 am

I worked at the Captain Kidd during the summer of 1979. Still one of the most fun summers of my life.

meheuck on April 16, 2021 at 10:03 pm

I did get that wrong - it was Holiday Amusements that booked the Auto-In, along with the Acme, Dent, Starlite, Hiway 28, Lake, and Mt. Healthy drive-ins. Levin Services booked the Ferguson Hills.

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