San Antonio Drive-In Movie Theaters
The first drive-in movie theater in San Antonio opened on October 23, 1940. The “Drive-In Theatre,” its original name, was located a short distance outside the city limits on Fredericksburg Road. Newspaper advertisements at the time noted that the “Drive-In Theatre was originated to bring entertainment to the aged, the unfortunately crippled, and the family with small children.” Featuring two shows nightly, The Drive-In could accommodate 482 cars. It would remain the only local drive-in theater until after World War II.
In April 1946, the second drive-in opened: the Alamo Drive-In Theater, located outside the city limits on Austin Highway. By summer, two others had opened and the Drive-In on Fredericksburg Road became known as the Fredericksburg Drive-In. With post-war prosperity and a growing automobile culture, drive-in theaters had caught on in San Antonio. The San Antonio Light published an article, with photographs, on May 14, 1948 stating that the “popularity of the drive-in theater is increasing steadily.” These images of local moviegoers at the recently opened San Pedro Outdoor Theatre are preserved in the San Antonio Light Photograph Collection (MS 359).
Drive-in theaters remained popular in San Antonio until their decline in the 1970s. During those years of operation, theater owners commissioned the Zintgraff Studio to photograph some of their facilities. These images of projection rooms, neon artwork, and marquee signs are included in the Zintgraff Studio Photograph Collection (MS 355).
With the exception of the screen tower of the Mission Drive-In, only small remnants remain of the other drive-ins that were located around the city. The photographs in the Zintgraff and Light Collections are valuable reminders of this popular form of entertainment.