Van Buren Drive-In

5375 Van Buren Road,
Dunkirk, NY 14048

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Showing 1 - 25 of 65 comments

videonitekatt on June 26, 2021 at 9:44 am

Theater reopening after major refurbishing and new screens!

davidcoppock on October 2, 2020 at 7:00 am

Opened on 15/7/1949 with 2 colour cartoons(not named), a Three Stooges comedy(Shivering sherlocks) and “Mickey”. Closed in 1991.

Drive-In 54
Drive-In 54 on November 15, 2013 at 12:42 pm could go the city/county tax recorders office and find out and do title search of all the owners.

smswise on November 15, 2013 at 12:37 pm

Hello all. I’m working on an article for the Chautauqua Star on some old theaters around the area, this week we’re focusing on the Dunkirk Drive-In. Anyone have any leads on who the current owners might be, or info to get in touch with them?

jwmovies on December 28, 2012 at 3:41 pm

Approx. address for this drive-in was 5375 Van Buren Road.

Drive-In 54
Drive-In 54 on February 27, 2012 at 5:54 pm

From Goggle Earth 1991

psomerf on November 15, 2011 at 3:54 pm

Change in status. The drive-in is now destroyed. On the evening of 11-14-11 a severe storm that spawned two tornadoes moved through the area. While I don’t know if a tornado hit the drive-in, there was one within 3-4 miles. The screen is now a crumpled mass of metal.

psomerf on July 26, 2011 at 9:10 am

Garbage in, garbage out. The street view photo is inaccurate here due to the address being incomplete. The result is the street view pictures are off by a mere 4.5 miles. As a side note, the entrance to the drive in was (is) not actually on Route 5, although it is about 50 – 100 from it. Don’t know how to “fix” the address to make it correct, or more correct, anyway.

psomerf on January 9, 2011 at 9:11 am

Last time I drove past the Screen housing has started to look really bad. I wonder how long until the structure collapses.


Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on December 20, 2010 at 4:27 pm

Jan.8 1951 “SEVEN SINNERS” and “SUTTER’S GOLD”.Ads mention “in car speakers”.In those days I thought that all there was?Seems really dumb even to put that in an ad.

psomerf on March 14, 2009 at 10:36 pm

Dunkirk Observer article about the Grand View DI in Angola. I posted there, but thought folks here would be interested as well. It mentions the DI in Jamestown. View link


photographz on March 18, 2008 at 2:00 pm

Patsy-sent you an email earlier today. I’ll look up the one in Corry (as well as where Corry is!) tonight. Thanks! This is a part time job, so it takes us a while to get out and find all the places we want to photograph, but I’d rather have a list of places to visit. My 1st priority will be DI’s and hotels/motels with vintage signs that are threatened, as they are time sensitive.

Patsy on March 18, 2008 at 1:55 pm

photographz: There is a drive-in located in Corry PA that is still operational and very original!

Patsy on March 18, 2008 at 1:54 pm

photographz: I responded to you on the Grandview link to your photos so if you wish to contact me my email is

photographz on March 18, 2008 at 1:50 pm

Some recent (3/15/08) photographs taken by myself and my husband of The Van Buren can be found here on my website in the “the forgotten” gallery: View link along with photos from the Grandview down the road in Angola (note-they are attempting to reopen this theater!!), an old hotel and some other places time forgot. We will be adding more as time goes on and we can locate them before time takes it toll, or developers get ahold of them. We are located in WNY, so if anyone knows of other non-operational DI’s in the area let me know (we have two that are still operating that I know of-the Transit and Sunset)!

dave95070 on November 7, 2007 at 7:48 pm

My grandfather Irving built the Van Buren in 1949. I ran the theatre from 1973 to 1978 until I went away to college. Yes the theatre was sold to Dipson around 1979.

My brother (who now runs the Transit) and I visited the site Nov 3rd. What a shame. My father and I did extensive remodeling on the business in 73, but now the place is in shambles. The screen tower is still up and structurally sound.

When we went to the Dunkirk Free Library we found the 1949 opening day add. My brother is compiling a history of all the Western New York Drive-ins.

I’ll try and get the Transit DI history page corrected. It should have read sold in 1979.

psomerf on December 20, 2006 at 11:57 am

I couldn’t find the ad again, and really haven’t had the chance to explore like I wanted to. Those old newspaper scans are hard on the eyes. And I haven’t been back home in a while to explore. My plans are to get back in May.

Patsy on December 20, 2006 at 9:31 am

Paul: Nice to read about someone’s mention of the Midway Drive-In. I wish it were still there, but is only an open field now with part of the projection room building behind Midway Park’s greenhouses.

mcmaenza on December 20, 2006 at 8:54 am

The Van Buren Drive-In was definitely open (under new managment I would gather from reading the above posts) in the 80’s. August of 1982 was the last time I saw a film there – it was my first drive-in date with a girl from Silver Creek and we saw a double-feature. One of the films was “Zapped!” starring Scott Baio and Willie Ames, a teen romp.

psomerf on August 6, 2006 at 4:18 pm

I also saw an ad for a drive-in across from Midway Park. I didn’t have a chance to see if it is on here.

psomerf on August 6, 2006 at 3:50 pm

I am presently reading the article in Dunkirk Observer about the opening of this theatre. 7/15/1949.

Capacity 800 cars. Screen is 50x40 on a 58 foot tall steel tower.

The ad: “Two shows nightly, rain or moon” 50 cents a person, $1 per car minimum.

First movies: “Mickey” and the 3 stooges “Shivering Sherlocks” (Shemp)

psomerf on August 5, 2006 at 4:16 pm

The second picture down (if this works) is said to be the Van Buren Drive-In.

The outline of the screen looks the same, but I don’t recall the building beneath.

CarolY on August 1, 2006 at 5:19 pm

LM, per your wishes, a last word (knowing you’ll follow up with another of your own). Did I, in comparing this page to other forum pages, write or even remotely hint either a) that I was referring to forum pages only within this site, or b) that I was referring to pages I’d seen only today? No, I didn’t think so. Nor did I mention that I even viewed this page in any direction relation to the TN drive-in project, but that I merely “stumbled upon” it that way – my interest in this page was tangential and related only to having been to the Van Buren drive-in as a kid. I have a day job and I haven’t seen many pages on this site (I just joined, if you haven’t noticed), and those forum pages I have seen have been wholly unrelated to theaters. By the way, thanks for the friendly welcome.

Paul, I think Fredonia is an amazing town, and I need no convincing that it deserves (whether on its soil or Dunkirk’s) a viable drive-in or any other amenity. It’s the jewel of Chautauqua county, and southern Chautauquans seem to be flocking to northern Chautauqua for both commerce and recreation. At the same time, on my last visit to Fredonia, I saw stagnant house prices, and, sadly, that an alarming percentage of houses on every decent street were up for sale. Rest assured I remain a rabid (yes, rabid) Bills and Sabres fan wherever I live and travel. My comments on the WNY climate notwithstanding, WNY can have some of the most idyllic summers around – with the lake on one side and agriculture on the other – and these summers alone may indeed be enough to sustain a D-I; you just need the right ownership (a sufficiently well-heeled one experienced with and realistic about theater management, and with a longer-term, community-interested view rather than a naive or desperate paycheck-to-paycheck view). And what can I say about Ithaca? It’s “gorges”. ;–)

psomerf on August 1, 2006 at 2:08 pm

Fredonia was named the best small town to live in WNY by some WNY business magazine a couple of months ago. And as long as gas prices keep going up, I think a reasonably done viewing environment in the D-F area could do well. In my lifetime there has not been a reasonably done venue. (I admit I haven’t been to the opera house since reconstruction, but movies are not its prime function.) The multiplex in town was horibly constructed, and changed hands 3-4 times since it opened in 1990.

Having lived out of town for years, I realize now that the grass isn’t greener. When retirement comes in about 7 years, its either back to Dunkirk, or off to Ithaca. I did my time in Cali and Vegas. Some decent theatres there, but to costly to live. Even here in WV I pay more for a house than I would in WNY, even though taxes are less. I would have to live in WV a long time for the cheaper taxes to pay off. And now that gas costs the same here and there, I’ll take there. After all, there has Niagara Falls. Here we have folks who bicker over whether WVU or Marshall is better.

I’m curious about how things go, as I may need to figure out how to finance a theatre or two. Especially in how to reclaim a DI from the weeds. :)