• Dave McGuire

What's Old is New - The Drive-In

The Clarksvillian

For many of us, it's been a challenge to stay entertained with limited options during the coronavirus pandemic. And with those limitations, and the need for maintaining social distances, the Middle Tennessee drive-ins are once again finding themselves providing opportunities for some entertainment outside the home while staying safe. The Middle Tennessee area stands in stark contrast to the rest of the country reminiscing over long gone drive-in theaters. There are 4 theaters within 50 miles of Clarksville and an additional five more 76-100 miles away. Whether you're taking an evening for dinner and a movie or visiting friends in nearby communities, there are theaters readily available.

The downside may be the limitations on new movie options. Hollywood is currently not releasing many new movies — the release of “Tenet,” Christopher Nolan’s highly anticipated new thriller, was just delayed indefinitely, and the release dates of other big movies such as “Mulan” and “Black Widow” are questionable. A few of the big films meant for theatrical distribution are appearing on digital and streaming services. Many of the drive-ins are focusing on older blockbuster or cult classic shows to satisfy fan demands.

The theaters are beginning to offer more than just movies these days. They're holding special events, such as Garth Brooks, Blake Shelton, Gwen Stefani, and Trace Adkins exclusive concerts. More live concert events are planned in the future, allowing musicians who cannot tour to perform for live audiences around the country. Tickets for those shows are sold through Ticketmaster, not by Marketplace, which is serving as the venue, and are higher than movie ticket prices — for example, the Shelton concert will run $114.99 for a carload of up to six people.

Rhetorical comment..

Walmart created drive-in theaters within their parking lots at different locations around the country. These were designed to support some of their "best" markets. The Clarksville area, per capita, is saturated with Walmart businesses. Why were we excluded?

Footnote question..

Q: Who remembers Clarksville's two drive-in theaters?

A: The Moon-Lit Drive-In which opened September 1, 1949 and The Sunset Drive-In, which opened October 25, 1950.

The Moon-Lit Drive-In was located near the 101st Airborne Parkway at 1685 Fort Campbell Boulevard (next to the potato sack slide). It was a large theater with a capacity of 450 cars. The theater was demolished in the late 1970s.

The Sunset Drive-In was located on the grounds of today's Tradewinds Shopping Center at

1925 Madison Street. The Sunset was also a larger theater with capacity for up to 400 cars. The theater closed shortly before Christmas Day in 1971.

aerial view of the Moon-Lit Drive-in Theater by Mike Rogers