Montana Drive-ins

Montana is best-known foremost for it's natural resources,
including America's very first National Park (Yellowstone),
as well as the largest county park in America (Hill County),
and also America's largest freshwater spring (Giant Springs).
In fact, elk, deer & antelope outnumber the human population
and no other state in America hosts more species of mammals.

With a human population density equating 6 people per sq. mile,
you wouldn't figure Montana to be an ideal venue for Drive-ins.
Still,   in it's late-50's heyday, the "treasure" state was home to
no less than 39 Drive-in cinemas beneath that big star-filled sky.
Since that time, 85% of Montana's Drive-ins have either gone dark
or have been demolished.   Here to treasure are those which remain:

  • Billings  
    see:   Laurel, Montana

 Silverbow (Butte), Montana

  • Butte (Silver Bow County) Montana
    Silver Bow Twin Drive-in:  406-782-8095
    located off of I-15 @ Silver Bow Exit
    (on Silver Bow Blvd., 10 mins sw of Butte)

    Montana's first outdoor twin-screen picture show
    came late to the party .. opening nearly 2 decades
    after the peak of America's Drive-in boom, in 1977
    (then adding their second screen three years after).
    But in another context, it's a reincarnation story:
    this Drive-in had lived previously, at Deer Lodge,
    as a solo screen that opened in 1950, moving on
    just ahead of I-90. The current concessions stand
    projection building for example, was picked-up &
    moved here from the original Deer Lodge location.
    Movie audio is now provided by radio broadcast,
    with some classic pole speakers for the nostalgic.
    They are open seasonally, May thru September, on
    weekends at first, then 7 nites during peak season.
    Admission:   $4 for adults; $2 for children.

 Columbia Falls, Montana

  • Columbia Falls (Flathead County) Montana
    Midway Drive-in:  406-752-7800
    located 5 miles west of town,
    off Route 2, at 3115 Highway 40 West

    Situated about   midway   between Columbia Falls and
    White Fish, MT (not more than 20 minutes from either 1),
    this solo screen Drive-in has a capacity for up to 230 cars.
    The midway operates seasonally, May thru September, on
    weekends only early and late in the season; and then 7 nites
    during the peak summer months, screening double-features.
    Movie audio is provided via radio (101.1 FM) broadcasting.
    Admission:   $12 per carload (covers up to six passengers).

  • Kalispell, Montana
    see:   Columbia Falls

  • Laurel (Yellowstone County) Montana  
    Amusement Park Drive-in Theatre:   406-245-3212
    located at 7335 Mossmain Lane, next to Horse Palace;
    East Laurel exit off of I-90   @ 72nd Street
    (SouthCentral Montana, within 15 minutes of Billings)

    Think we'll file this new entry under: 'Life After Death'..
    being not merely a milepost in our ongoing chronicle
    of the Drive-in renaissance sweeping America, but
    a tale with a happier ending than the tragi-typical
    'now a Wal-Mart!' etc .. in this case, the demise of
    a Wyoming Drive-in, the Cookes (in Frannie, WY —
    near Cody), gave rise to the realization of a dream
    to restore the Drive-in experience to the vicinity of
    Billings, Montana, which once had four Drive-ins.
    And it had taken an ambitious husband-wife team
    nearly two years to realize that dream, and now
    both the nostalgic and the uninitiated will once
    again be able to enjoy their movies al fresco, on
    the BIG screen. The Amusement Park Drive-in is
    lighting an 82' wide screen with a double feature
    every nite this summer (wknds only for Sept-Oct).
    They have a capacity for just over 300 cars in front
    of this screen, with plans to add a 2nd screen for
    next season. The 'Park' is not only new, it's also
    different, with innovations reminiscent of Drive-ins
    back during their 1950's heyday, including a mini-
    ferris wheel for the kids, and what has to be the
    most unusual projection 'booth' of any Drive-in; but
    we'll leave you to see that for yourself! Movie audio
    is provided direct to your car (or boombox) with radio
    (88.5 FM) broadcasting. Admission: $6 for ages 16 &UP;
    $4 for ages 8-15 and seniors; ages 7 and under are free.
    Thursday nites are discounted: $10 per car Carload Nite.

 Lewistown, Montana

  • Lewistown (Fergus County) Montana
    Westernaire Drive-in:  406-538-9509
    located on Highway 87, 2 miles west of town

    Situated 2 hours east of Great Falls, and a 2½ hour
    drive from Billings .. outside a small farming town,
    this is Montana's oldest operating Drive-in theatre,
    built in 1944. The current owner acquired it back in
    1960, greatly improved on the original facilities and
    expanded their parking lot to accomodate 190 cars.
    The Westernaire is also the only Montana Drive-in
    that in addition to providing movie audio with FM
    radio brodcasting, also maintains 3 rows of classic
    pole speakers for the nostalgic-minded amongst us.
    The snack bar is an attraction— loyal Westernaires
    always rave about their grilled cheese sandwiches.
    In recent years, the Drive-in has been operating on
    weekends only - Fri/Sat/Sun, May thru September, but
    they're considering going to 5 nites during peak-season.
    Admission:   $6 for ages 12 &up; $3.50 for ages 4-11.

 Libby, Montana

  • Libby (Lincoln County) Montana
    Libby Drive-in:   406-293-2703
    located on Highway 2
    1286 U.S. Hwy 2 (¼mi west of town)

    In operation here since July 8th, 1954, the Libby's
    rural 60' wide screen — situated 52 miles east of the
    Idaho state line, has a parking capacity for 220 cars,
    a gorgeous backdrop, and the traditional playground.
    Open seasonally, Memorial Day wknd thru Labor Day).
    Audio for movie soundtracks is provided via FM radio.
    Admission:   $6 adults; $4 for seniors; $4 for ages 5-12.
    Wednesday nite is Carload Nite - $10 per car covers all.

    photo:  Wesley Horton
 Missoula, Montana

  • Missoula (Missoula County) Montana
    Go West Drive-in:   DARK
    located on Highway 10 West

    This is the most recent closing of a Montana Drive-in. Up until
    the Go West went dark (2000), it was the largest of Montana's
    operating Drive-in theatres, with a capacity for over 600 cars.
    The outdoor picture show had operated here for four decades,
    overseen each season by Robert Silas, who passed away in 1999.
    And now, the nearest operating Montana Drive-in for Missoula
    denizens and areans is: the Silver Bow, just outside of Butte.

 Plentywood, Montana

  • Plentywood (Sheridan County) Montana
    Sunset Drive-in:   406-765-1233
    located at 414 East Boundway (1mi east of Town)

    This solo screen is providing the only Drive-in picture show
    for northeastern Montana, and though it's been passed-down
    through a few different owners over the years, it has remained
    lit each season since 1952. Sheridan County's only outdoor
    cinema is tucked way up in the northeastern corner of the
    state, 18 miles from the Canadian border (Saskatchewan).
    The Sunset has a capacity for up to 160 cars and operates
    seasonally, from May (opens Memorial Day weekend) thru
    September, with movie audio via radio broadcast (90.1 FM).

 Terry, Montana

  • Terry (Prairie County) Montana
    Prairie Drive-in:   FOR SALE  eMail inquiries
    located on Brockway Road, east of town (off I-94)

    This old solo screen (1955) with a scenic backdrop is Montana's
    smallest functional Drive-in, with parking for up to 100 cars on
    a true-to-it's-name prarie surface. Until recently (open in 2004),
    it had been open seasonally, May thru September, with radio
    broadcasting of the movie audio (88.9 FM). The most recent
    admission prices were:  Adults (ages 18&up) $5; discounted
    admission for students (aged 12-18) and seniors- 65 &up: $4;
    children (ages 3-11): $3, and under 3: free. Though the screen
    is 'dark' at the moment, there is light on the Prarie's horizon ..
    the present owner is offering to sell the Drive-in, providing it
    remains in operation as a Drive-in. Given the condition of the
    property, intact equipment, and the fact that it was operating
    just last season, the possibility exists that it might be sold in
    time for the Prarie screen to be lit again during Season 2005.

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 The Guide to Drive-in Movie Theatres

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