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Rosebowl Drive-In
US 1 between Ashland and Richmond, Va. (1 mile north of Virginia Center Commons mall)
capacity: about 400 cars
years of operation: 1953-91
currently: landscaping firm; projection/concession building remains, but marquee has been torn down

Spent the '70s and '80s as a porno venue, but made an initially successful switch to family-oriented fare in 1990. You can still see the high wooden posts of the fence used to shield passersby on US 1 from the X-rated screen images. The closed but still-intact drive-in was lit up for a scene in the 1994 movie Foreign Student, which was set in mid-'50s Virginia.
   "I went looking for the old Rosebowl D-I last Sunday (5/25) while returning from a visit to Hull's D-I the night before. I drove into Ashland from the west, on Rt. 54 and turned south on Rt. 1. As the miles went by, I wasn't sure if maybe I had driven too far, since I didn't spot the D-I marquee. It's kinda funny that I finally pulled into a 7-Eleven to ask some locals whether I might be near the site of an old D-I. They told me yes, it used to be across the highway! They said the marquee had been torn down 'a couple years ago.' There was a distinct 'hedge' of tall evergreen trees that marked the theatre boundary.
   "I crossed Rt. 1 and parked in what must have been the D-I entrance road. The huge wooden fence posts are still visible in the trees and undergrowth that surround the property. I found what appeared to be pieces of the marquee piled two pieces deep, just laying there on the ground, covered with weeds. I tried lifting a chunk to see better but it was too heavy. I didn't wander onto the actual grounds; however, I could see the greenhouses and such down below that are used by the current business. The entrance road was considerably higher than the actual drive-in, and so there is a steep wooded slope downwards to look in on the grounds.
   "Next, I went around to the NW boundary of the old property, and parked along a small road. The strip of trees and understory is much narrower there, and so it was easier to see into the property. I took a snapshot of the former concession/projection building but it was from a distance so I'm not sure whether it'll be worth much. The building appears to be used by the landscaping company.
   "Not that I expect it to ever happen, but I gotta say that I don't think it would take much work to clear the lot and rebuild the theatre on the same site. At least, there are no new buildings that would need demolition."
-- Roland Follot

Click here to see the 1994 USGS map depicting the Rosebowl and surrounding area.
here to see a 1994 aerial photo of the drive-in.

Photo taken November 1997.

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