Miami’s Drive-In Theaters

Miami Businesses

In 1933, the first “park in” theater opened in Camden, NJ. Its owner, Richard Hollingshead, obtained a patent on the concept. In 1949, his patent was overturned, and that year, drive-in theaters started popping up all over the US. Coincidentally, that was the year that the Tri-State opened two miles north of downtown Miami on Route 66.

Tri-State Drive In announced, January 30, 1949

Construction of the Tri-State drive in, February 27, 1949

They were looking to open in March or April, but that was a bit optimistic.

Tri-State opens, June 30, 1949

Full page newspaper ad celebrating the opening of the Tri-State, June 30, 1949. Click to enlarge.

The above ad gives folks some details about how the drive-in theater works, since many if not most hadn’t seen one yet.

Tri-State Drive In Theater, 1950’s

Tri_State Drive-In, 1955. Photo by Ken Ellwood

On July 22, 1953, another drive-in theater opened a mile south of town, on 66. It was called the Sooner.

Ad mentioning the Sooner drive-in, December 31, 1953. The first mention I could find in the News-Record

Sooner announces temporary closing to resurface its lot, June 18, 1954

The Sooner’s location made them vulnerable to flooding. The article above announced a temporary closing due to flood damage. However, no further advertisements appeared in the News-Record for the Sooner south of town. On January 2, 1955, it was mentioned in an ad as one of the five Miami theaters. But this was the last mention of the original Sooner.

The former Tri-State theater now known as the Sooner, October 4, 1965

On August 23, 1963, the Tri-State began advertising itself as the Sooner. According to historian Fredas Cook, it was to take advantage of the much nicer Sooner sign formerly used south of town. Fredas also points out that the original Sooner was a traffic hazard due to its screen facing the highway, that may have contributed to its being closed shortly after opening.

Now, of course, the Tri-State/Sooner is long gone, a Wal Mart sits in its place. But Miami residents can visit the Admiral Twin in Tulsa or the 112 in Fayetteville for a genuine drive-in theater experience within a reasonable drive.

3 thoughts on “Miami’s Drive-In Theaters

  1. I’ve in trailer park just behind drive in as a young adult. I do remember sneaking into the drive in once

  2. Hey Ron, thanks again for allowing me to use the uncredited Tri-State photo in my upcoming book, coming out next month (knock on wood). I spent an afternoon at the Miami library going through newspaper microfilm, so I can add a few dates for you. The original Sooner opened on July 2, 1953. As you suspected, its “temporary” closure became permanent, so its last show was on June 19, 1954. The Tri-State first advertised as the Sooner on Aug. 23, 1963.

    What I don’t know is when Tri-State/Sooner closed. In February 1991, Joe Bob Briggs wrote, “The folks in Miami, Okla., have just about given up hope that the Sooner Drive-In will ever reopen. The screen has started to rot, casting weird shadows on the Wal-Mart across the highway.” (The Wal-Mart used to be on the east side of the road.) So my guess would be 1989.

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