How Many Classic Drive-In Theaters Are Still Operational in Idaho?
There are fewer things more nostalgic than a movie night at the drive-in theater. Over the years, drive-in theaters have faced some pretty steep challenges.
According to Bloomberg, there was a period of time when America was home to more than 4,000 classic drive-in theaters. Today? There are just about 300 that continue to operate around the country. The decline in their popularity can be attributed to any number of factors: indoor theaters that offer a weatherproof, all-inclusive moving-going experience, streaming services making it easier than ever to watch a feature film in your living room and real estate developers offering hard-to-refuse payments to buy the land they sit on.
Since drive-in movies have always been a naturally socially distant experience, the theaters that were able to survive the previously mentioned challenges enjoyed a resurgence during Summer 2020. After being cooped up in the house for weeks, people were eager to see a movie, new or old, anywhere other than their living rooms.
In the Boise area, we're pretty blessed to live a reasonable driving distance from two of America's remaining drive-in theaters. Can other parts of the state say the same thing?
According to DriveInMovie.com, a website that bills itself as the internet's oldest drive-in movie resource, Idaho has one of the highest numbers of drive-ins per capita. Statewide there were six continuously running drive-in theaters up and running in 2022.
Where are the Remaining Drive-In Movie Theaters in Idaho?
Of course, we don't want to leave "Frontier Drive-In" out. The drive-in theater quietly opened in Emmett's Mitchell Industrial Park in 2020. They've shown a handful of movies over the last few years, but don't operate on a regular schedule like the other theaters on the list.
Remembering Boise's Defunked Drive-Ins
Over the years, the Treasure Valley has been home to at least 11 different drive-ins including four in Boise, two in Meridian, two in Nampa, two in Caldwell and one in Parma. (Terrace Drive-In and Parma Motor-Vu are included in that count.) We dug up some history on two of them when we put together our list of 5 Throwback Boise Movie Theaters We Miss.
Author's Note: These are stock images below. Not photos of the old Boise theaters. If you have original photography of those drive-ins that you would be kind enough to grant us permission to use, we'd love to add yours!
Broadway Drive-In at 1390 W Victory
According to Cinema Treasures, Broadway Drive-In was one of the five drive-in theaters in the Boise area and opened in 1955. It could hold about 400 cars. In its prime, the large screen was very visible from Federal Way leaving some people with very risque memories.
In the Boise and the Treasure Valley History group on Facebook, Justinian recalled being 10 years old and riding in a car making its way down Federal Way when he saw a naked woman on a two-story-high screen. Mick had a similar experience, claiming that sometime in the early '70s they were showing a similar film and people started driving off the road.
Larry remembered a time when his parents couldn't afford a babysitter, so they took their two kids to a burlesque film there. The kids were told to go to sleep in the backseat. Mom was concerned. Dad said they'll never remember any of this. Clearly, he was wrong. Before it closed, the Broadway Drive-In did provide Boise families with wholesome memories too. Many remember seeing Star Wars, Jaws and Ghostbusters here.
Fair-Vu Drive-In at 8962 Fairview Avenue
Opened in 1969, the Fair-Vu could hold 600 cars and was likely the last of the five Boise area drive-ins to close permanently. It closed in 1994 and was demolished in 1997. It was very close to the smaller Midway Drive-In and adjacent to the more traditional theater, the Fair Vue Cinema 1-2-3.
In 1994, United Artists, which operated the drive-in and indoor theater, decided they wanted out of the Boise market. According to Cinema Treasures, they sold the properties to Smith's Food King to turn into a warehouse. Smith's ended up being sold before construction began, so it never became a warehouse. It's now home to Lithia Ford Lincoln.
Nostalgia for Sale
At one point, some of the speaker boxes from some the Treasure Valley's old drive-in theaters ended up on eBay. These were listed for $100 a piece. The seller said that most of them came from the Fair-Vu or Meridian Drive-In, but we can clearly see the name of the Terrace on one of them!