East of Cincinnati, the Starlite Drive-In still operates its own piece of Americana, but there was once another in the area, lost in 1974 and now buried behind the trees.
|- Nearby Grant Lake for which the drive-in was named.|
Back in 2014, my friend Caitlin and I were cruising around Brown County, Ohio near her hometown of Georgetown. It wasn’t the first time I’d photographed and explored an abandoned drive-in, but this one was definitely one of the more challenging ones to find. The screen was long gone and passing by on the road, it seemed like any normal wooded area. From the air though, the drive-in’s footprint is apparent:
|- The remains of the Lake Drive-In compared with a satellite image of the active Holiday Auto Theatre.|
You can still make out the the curved rows where cars would line up to see the latest features. In the time since photographing this place, I had completely forgotten where it was, scouring through Google Maps to try and find that distinct drive-in style footprint that can still be seen from the sky.
|- Remains of one of the drive-in's buildings thought to be the ticket booth.|
The place had once been known as the Lake Drive-In, aptly named for its proximity to nearby Lake Grant in Mt. Orab, Ohio. ForgottenOH.com features some photos of the place abandoned well before I ever made my way out there. The creator of those photographs was able to document the old marquee sign and ticket booth, even a speaker pole still standing. According to Cinema Treasures, the 300 car capacity theatre had featured one screen, opened in 1960,
The Lake drive in didn't shut down until the late 80's, when the screen tower was blown down by a small tornado. I know it had to be open until at least 86 or 87 because I had a lot of good times there in high school. The family that owned the drive in used to own several theaters back in the day, when there was a theater or two in every town. One 3rd generation sister ran the theater in Bethel the other ran the drive in. The sister that ran the Bethel theater reopened the Starlight, which had been vacant for several years, Around 1990 I worked at the Bethel theater and became the manager at the Starlight and worked to get it reopened. At that time the buildings and marquee at the Lake was still in pretty good shape. We took several things from the Lake for use at the Starlight including the ice machine, letters from the marquee, and popcorn machine.
As of 2014:, this is what it looked like:
|- Trees have grown up where vehicles used to park for shows.|
Trees have grown up in the parking spots, while the roads connecting those areas have become criss-crossing ATV paths. The only remaining building is claimed by one source to be the concession stand. Tan paint was peeling off the cinder block structure, its doors long gone and any remnants of the nostalgic “ozone” inside were probably well beneath the dirt and trash on the floor. While I’m not sure if this building also housed the projection booth, a circular hole in the wall may be indicative of that.
|- Was the hole on the right hand side of the photograph once for the projector?|
These days, even as classic drive-in theaters are becoming more and more rare on America’s roadside, those near Cincinnati still have two locations they can visit: The Holiday Auto Theatre operates up in Oxford, while the Starlite still operates in Amelia to the East.
For more photos from Brown County, check out the next update here.
Other abandoned drive-in’s documented on QC/D have been:
The Oakley Drive-In Theatre
A drive-in theatre as seen in Decatur, IN while on a road trip
One in Logan, Ohio
Over time, a lot of urban exploration content has been featured on QC/D. During the past ten or so years, some photographs and stories from my interest in documenting abandoned, forgotten, or little-known locations have fallen by the wayside. They were either never featured or only had a small mention. Over the next few weeks, this “From the Archives” series will dig up some of those older stories and share more history and exploration of abandoned places across the Midwest.