Remember the drive-in theater? The outdoor movie venues seemed to be everywhere at one time, from small town America to the country’s largest cities. Surprisingly, the country’s largest is located on the corner of Ford Road and Wyoming. The theater, appropriately named Ford-Wyoming, opened in 1950 with one large screen and is still going strong. Today it sits on a large piece of land that incorporates five screens. It can accommodate about 2,500 cars. At its peak, the outdoor theater had nine screens, each showing two feature-length films.
I recently rode by bike throughout the old place. What struck me right away was the enormity of the site and the architectural style of the main screen. It is designed in the Art-Deco style of the mid-century and features giant bold letters that face Ford Road. The associated buildings connected to the main screen structure and three free-standing toll booths are painted in vivid blue and red. They match the Deco trim elements found on the backside of the tall screen that can be seen from Ford Road.
The long entrance off Ford Road leads to the ticket booths that reminded me of something you’d see at a U.S. border crossing. Beyond them there are directional signs pointing attendees to the right outdoor theater. They all have movie titles listed.
I rode into the number two screen area, and one of the first things I noticed inside the fenced off section was the vast parking area in front of the screen and the acres upon acres of speaker poles. They seemed to spread across the open landscape like cactus plants in the arid Southwest.
The actual movie screens are huge. They probably stand at least three-stories tall and are just as wide. The supporting steel structure that holds them up reminded me of something found in an industrial complex. One of the sections I was in had a central concession stand, and there is a children’s playground in front of the screen.
As indoor movie theater’s screens grew larger and Dolby sound came into vogue, most of the old drive-in theaters have slowly faded away. VCRs and cable TV also added to their decline. That technology brought movies right into the family living room, gluing people to their couches in front of the television. Despite the advances in technology, it’s great to see that this icon of the past is still operating and showing double-feature films year-round.