Gulf Drive-In

4044 S. Port Avenue,
Corpus Christi, TX 78415

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Gulf Drive-In exterior

Opened in January 1949, the Gulf Drive-In was located in what at that time were the outskirts of Corpus Christi. The rear of the screen had a large sea-gull mural. Operated by Claude Ezell & Associates Inc., the Gulf Drive-In had a capacity for 750 cars. By 1957 it was operated by Rowley United Theatres Inc. From 1968 to its closing on November 5, 1978 it screen Spanish language movies.

Contributed by Ken Roe

Recent comments (view all 9 comments)

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on September 2, 2010 at 7:02 pm

In 1956 it was owned by C.C.Ezell and Assoc.Ken.

Yakima1 on October 27, 2010 at 6:14 am

The Gulf opened Friday Jan 21, 1949 by U&E (Underwood & Ezell) as a 500 car capacity, $225,000 drive-in. It operated for the first year or so under the U&E banner eventually shifting to the Ezell & Assoc. banner. WG Underwood had already passed in June of 1948. The first feature shown was “A Date With Judy” starring Wallace Beery.

The theater was upgraded in the spring of 1952 to a 750 car capacity. The mural was changed from a sea gull to a mermaid at that time. At some point in the mid 50s Claude Ezell sold out to the Corpus Christi Theaters / Robb-Rowley / Rowley United / United Artists circuit who continued to operate it until 1968 when they leased it to T. “Bob” Cuellar who began to operate The Gulf drive-in, The Buccaneer drive-in and The Tower theater as Spanish language theaters under the same banner.

There is a Home Depot at this site now (2010).

Yakima1 on October 31, 2010 at 7:07 pm

Here are some newspaper ads.
View link

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on May 10, 2011 at 12:42 pm

thanks Yakima I love looking at the old ads.

rivest266 on August 13, 2012 at 5:53 pm

1956 aerial uploaded here.

Neubauer on July 21, 2013 at 5:11 pm

Repaired speakers as a teenager at the Gulf. Had stereo car speakers for movies in stereo!

dallasmovietheaters on August 25, 2015 at 9:38 pm

For the 1952 season, the seagull mural was replaced by a mermaid on the Gulf tower.

rivest266 on November 27, 2020 at 2:45 pm

Closed in 1978 after showing Spanish movies from 1968.

dallasmovietheaters on December 26, 2022 at 6:32 am

The Gulf Drive-In was derailed by anti-Free Speech interests in Corpus Christi. The theater was enjoined for showing soft core R- and X-rated films when folks living at the La Armada II Housing project who had a clear view of the screen complained late in 1977. The courts agreed and the Gulf’s season was over.

The Gulf Drive-In reopened with traditional Hollywood double features as their 1978 season programming. As the season progressed, complaints continued once again. La Armada residents obviously wanted either no content or content that the whole family could view. And following the double-feature of “The Omen” and “The Other” on November 5, 1978, the theater was once again enjoined by the City from showing anything that might be considered objectionable by anyone with a clear view of the screen (or possibly not) in that housing complex.

Obviously an incredible overreach, the Gulf operators - likely reaching the terminus of a second 20-year lease apparently - decided to walk away from the venture. That made the November 5, 1978 screenings their final showings. The La Armada II residents were likely not happy to see the empty drive-in screen because it, too, was likely objectionable to their sensibilities. The vacant Gulf was destroyed by an arsonist in 1981 and razed. The area is now home to a Home Depot.

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