Lafayette Blvd. (US 1/business) just north of Four Mile Fork, Fredericksburg, Va.
capacity: 500 cars
years of operation: 1951-88, 1990-91
currently: sold and slated for a business complex (May 2007: Second Bank & Trust branch occupies site of screen)
Opened as the Pitts Drive-In, flagship drive-in of the locally-based Pitts Circuit,
which dominated exhibition in Fredericksburg for decades, operating both
of the downtown theatres, the Colonial and Victoria, as well as in numerous
other small Virginia towns where it owned both indoor and later outdoor
theatres. The circuit's owner, Benjamin T. Pitts, had been in the exhibition
business in Fredericksburg since the 1920s, and was elected the state senator
representing the city and four neighboring counties from 1944-58. The
drive-in, which cost $125,000 in 1950 dollars to build, featured among other
things a merry-go-round, miniature train, and a fishing pond that ran
along the northern edge of the lot. Opening feature was She Wore
a Yellow Ribbon starring John Wayne. In 1970, the chain was
sold to Baltimore-based R/C Theatres, and the drive-in dropped Pitts from
its name, becoming the Fredericksburg Drive-In. Several years later R/C
built the twin-screen Virginians adjacent to it, and the two theatres operated
in tandem. The drive-in closed for the 1989 season due to lack of support,
but was reopened in 1990 with a new, family-oriented focus. Unfortunately,
the menace of ambient light from surrounding commercial development proved
to be its downfall, and it closed for good after two more seasons. The
vacant drive-in field, used for a time as satellite parking for the Fredericksburg
Auto Auction, is for sale, including that fishing pond which is now a forlorn,
vegetation-choked marsh. As for the Virginians, it expanded to a four-screen
house before being closed down by R/C in April 2001, and the building was
demolished in spring 2005.
The December 16, 2006 issue of the Free Lance-Star
paper paid tribute to the Pitts/Fredericksburg DI in these articles (1, 2).
Formerly the drive-in marquee. The original Virginians marquee can be seen in the distance.
The Virginians building is in the background. Thanks to Stu Megaw for both photos.
"The booth in the picture [was] put there by the Fredericksburg Auto Auction. It was the guard shack when the Auto Auction used the old drive-in lot as a satellite parking lot for the auction. It was never a ticket booth." -- Doug Wilson [Indeed, the theatre entrance was always on the opposite, northern end of the lot. -- Ed.]
Now, for the REAL ticket booth, look no further...
Thanks to Chris Barbuschak for the above two photos.
Click here to see the USGS map of the Fredericksburg Drive-In
and surrounding area, from 1989.
Click here to see an aerial photograph of the drive-in from 1994. The Virginians and its parking lot sit to the east.
Got some additional information, or some pictures
or stories about this drive-in
you'd like to share? Email me -- thanks!