Michigan Upper Thumb Drive-In Theaters
The First Drive-In Theater
It’s widely recognized that the first drive-in theater was Hollingshead’s drive-in opened in New Jersey June 6, 1933. It offered viewing for up to 400 vehicles and a 40 by 50-foot screen. The owner advertised his drive-in theater with the slogan, “The whole family is welcome, regardless of how noisy the children are.” The facility only operated three years, but during that time the concept caught on in other states.
Drive-Ins Come to Michigan’s Upper Thumb
The drive-in’s peak popularity came in the late 1950s and early 1960s, particularly in rural areas, with some 4,000 drive-ins spread across the United States. Huron County is recorded in having two drive-in’s, the Blue Sky between Caseville and Pinnebog and the M-53 near Bad Axe.
Intermission – 10 Minutes Between Movies
Caseville Blue Sky Theater
The Blue Sky operated from 1950 – 1977. Surrounded by farmland it offered summer nighttime movies for 300. Faced with a decline in attendance the drive-in showed “blue films” in the 1970’s. Remains of this theater were evident until about 2010 when landowners removed the last of the speaker stands and cement footings. All that remains is a pile of rubble east of Gott’s Corners on Kinde Road.
Bad Axe Drive-In Hung Until the 1980’s
M-53 opened in 1953 and ran until 1988. Located just west of town, its 400 spaces drew folks from all over the county. Today the site is occupied by DTE Energy Offices.
Today there are no drive-ins in the Upper Thumb. The nearest one is the Hi-Way Drive-In in Sandusky. The Hi-Way is considered the oldest continuous running drive-in in Michigan.