8600 E. 8 Mile Road,
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Previously operated by: Community Circuit Theaters
Architects: Ted Rogvoy
Previous Names: Bel-Air Twin Drive-In
The Bel-Air Drive-In was opened as a single screen, with a car capacity for 1,800. It eventually became a four screen ozoner with a capacity of 3,000 cars. Listed as opening on August 25, 1950 with Ann Sheridan in “Stella” & Donald O'Connor in “Curtain Call at Cactus Creek”. Operated by Community Theatres. The theatre had a model train, for kids to ride. Screen 2 opened in 1971. Screen 3 opened in 1982 and screen 4 opened in 1983. It was closed on August 21, 1986.
Following demolition the Bel-Air Shopping Center was built on the site.
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Here is a 1973 aerial view:
The site is now occupied by a shopping center called Bel Air Shopping Center. Most of the stores in the shopping center are vacant. 1973 aerial shows two screens.
Bel Air Cinemas are located next to the Bel Air Shopping Center, to the east.
Opened with “Stella” and “Curtain call at Cactus Creek”. A small amusement park opened just outside the drive-in in 1951. Screen 2 opened in 1971. Screen 2 opened in 1982. Screen 3 opened in 1983.
Billboard, July 19, 1952: “John Carlisle, featured columnist of the Detroit News, paid tribute to Adolph and Irving Goldberg of Community Theaters and supervisor David Wilson for making their shows at the Bel-Air Drive-In available to patients of a nearby hospital. Finding the patients on a porch were able to see the screen without too much difficulty, they arranged to put in a special line to the hospital and amplifying equipment so they could hear the sound as well.”
The Bel-Air 1-2-3 Drive-In Theatre closed August 21, 1986 with “The Fly” and “Aliens” on Screen 1, “Armed and Dangerous” and “Jo Jo Dancer” on Screen 2, “Back to School” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” on Screen 3. That weekend’s Bel-Air flea market and all future dates were moved to the Ford-Wyoming Drive-In.
two screens on November 24th, 1971. Grand opening ad posted
From what I have read, the original theater had a capacity of 2,200 cars, certainly the largest in Michigan. When the second theater was added in 1971, a piece of the main theater was shaved off, reducing capacity to 1,800 cars. The second screen parked 1,200, so that equals 3,000 total. This was Detroit’s first “twin” drive-in, and ultimately a third screen would be placed in a back corner, and a fourth screen in the front area.