5210 Marlboro Pike, Coral Hills, Md. (1 mile outside of D.C.)
capacity: 715 cars
years of operation: 1953-88
currently: reportedly demolished in 1998; sold to Maryland National Park and Planning Commission; school and community center planned for land. Click here to read article about it.
With its final show -- the Chuck Norris actioner
Hero and the Terror and the horror B-flick Night
of the Demons starring Linnea Quigley -- the Hillside brought
the curtain down on the Washington drive-in era on November _, 1988. As late
as 1993 it still stood, with the lot leased by the state of Maryland as commuter
parking, and the formidable screen tower still looming above Marlboro Pike,
albeit in deteriorating shape. It was opened on August 24, 1953 by legendary
drive-in promoter Sidney Lust (see the Beltsville) and purchased by the Wineland
circuit in 1956. In 1986 the Winelands sold out to an independent operator;
in its last years the surrounding neighborhood grew crime-ridden and the
drive-in was plagued with drug-dealing activity. The steel-and-masonite tower,
with its Greek comedy/tragedy masks and animated neon "HILLSIDE" lettering
(*sigh*), was the creation of famed drive-in architect Jack Vogel; his original
representation of it appears on page 63 of the book The American
Drive-In Theatre, although it is misidentified as the Beltsville
by the authors.
"Hi: I almost fell to the floor when I found your site! In 1959 through 1983 my Father worked for the Berlo Vending company which later became Burison & Lobe, and finally Ogden Foods International. He managed the snack bar at the Hillside Drive-In for many years while he was in the Air-Force during the day. My 2 younger brothers and I were at that theater thousands of times. It was our playground, our babysitter, and eventually, we all worked there. I remember a man named Lloyd Wineland was the owner and he also owned the ABC and Super Chief Drive-Ins, among others.
"I was 9 years old the first time I went there and was almost 20 the last time I saw that theater. My Father and His 3rd wife owned the land that it was on and leased it.
"I remember when we were young we would play in the back of the lot where the trash was taken and always we would find things like old burned out 1,500 watt bulbs, the usual drive in trash, and occasionally golf balls. Yes golf balls. The drive-in was next to a country club. We lived less than a mile from the theater and my father and his wife owned and occasionally lived in a house that was directly on a hill behind the Hillside.
"I can taste the 'Flavos Shrimp Rolls' as I write this!
"The terrible crust on those pizzas that I thought were great!
"And the fake Italian voice and cartoon on the screen during intermission telling everyone to go to the snack bar and get a bigga pizza pie.
"The drive-in theater is to me, a metaphor of what has happened to this country. Once we were proud to be Americans! The pledge of allegiance meant something. Now, as the Hillside rots it was frequented by the crack heads, thieves, and scum of the earth that took over the whole area. I was raised by a movie theater. And I am sure glad to have found your site. Thank you for letting me relive my childhood and I am going to show this to my brothers. My Father died at the age of 60. By then he was the concession manager of 45 or 60 Drive-In snack bars and bowling alley diners.
"By the way, the biggest night we ever had at the Hillside was in 1963 when we were showing Cleopatra. All 700 spaces were filled and there were people everywhere! That was the night my father was so proud that the snack bar took in 1,200 dollars. How much is that in today's cash?
"The Hillside was open 'year round' and some nights there would be only 10 or 15 cars there and the snack bar would take in only 15 or 20 dollars. I worked there for $1.25 cents an hour and it was there where I learned about 'fast service', saying thank you and sir to the customer, and we had pride in that place. We often would hear my father talking with other theater snack bar managers about how much they took in, the customers, some event that happened, the film broke and the cars honked for 20 minutes, and all kinds of things like that.
"Today people who wait on you in these cheap multiplex tin box movie houses are slow, rude, and I hate them. As the morale of America went the way of the Hillside Drive-In, the days of being proud to be in the greatest nation on earth died when 2 things happened. The loss of so many drive-ins, and the day Ronald Reagan left office." -- Steve Azbell (Steve also wrote this reminiscence of the Hillside days, posted at drive-ins.com.)
Scroll down to watch "Scenes from the Last Drive-In", a 4-minute documentary film about the
Hillside. Made by Jeff Krulik and John Heyn, the independent filmmakers behind the cult
classic Heavy Metal Parking Lot, it includes various scenes shot inside the
drive-in in 1988 and 1989, and comments from both patrons and employees, including reminiscences about
the early days from a former (apparently the first) manager.
Click here to see the 1979 USGS map of the Hillside Drive-In
and surrounding area.
Click here to see an aerial photograph of the drive-in from 1989.
Photo taken in early 1993. Colored banners originally flew from the poles lining the top of the screen.
Below are links to photos of the Hillside
from 1953. These are originally from the 1954-55 Theatre Catalog; special
thanks to Wesley Horton for providing the scans.
marquee and screen tower
marquee and screen tower at night
inside of snack bar
view from screen onto packed lot
view of screen from packed lot
Got some additional information, or some pictures
or stories about this drive-in
you'd like to share? Email me -- thanks!