Posted: November 8, 2007 in The Roper Files


Between 1980 and 1985 many drive-ins closed here locally. With the advent of cable tv and the VCR, even porno drive-ins couldn’t compete; one could now masturbate in the privacy of their home instead of taking a chance on those inconvenient public lewdness charges. My friend Tom and I (who were both still living with our parents at the time) had gotten down to a scant choice of three drive-ins: the Cherry Lane, the Southside and the Mansfield. Depending on who was showing what usually influenced our choices. We would confer on the phone after checking the newspaper ( Damn; they’re showing MISSING IN ACTION again!”) 

We wound up at the Southside a lot until their demise sometime in between 1982-84. They usually had a good roster of either low-budget comedies or horror movies. Like the Bates Motel highway construction around the Southside seemed only designed to make it harder to get to. You could see their screens from I-35, but getting to the place was a little tricky. You had to drive down a long dark winding access road and then turn down an unpaved path in between The Rig steakhouse and the Petra Baptist Church. The Southside was also cursed with a railroad track right behind it. During key moments of the movie like: “The killer could have only been…” the 10:15 would rumble by and the engineer would lean on his air horn (on purpose no doubt) as he took forever to finally pass. 

It was a fairly large drive-in, holding about 1200 cars. No speakers; sound was broadcast on FM (“we sell batteries in the snack bar!”) We usually took a giant portable radio with a cassette deck so we could listen to punk rock in between films. A good double feature like THE ROAD WARRIOR and the original TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE would pack the place. Other nights they would have some slasher picture (THE GATES OF HELL or THE TOOLBOX MURDERS) and Tom and I would be the only vehicles there.

About a year before they closed they started running porno films on the east screen (which didn’t face I-35) and regular family fare on the west screen (!) LORD OF THE RINGS on one screen and bouncing boobies on the other (“don’t look kids!”) if you can imagine. But even porn movies failed to pack the place. One night we went there to see the gawdawful CALIGULA and I walked to the snack bar. We were the only ones there on our side. Looking around the other side of the snack bar I saw DEAL OF THE CENTURY playing to absolutely no one on the west side of the drive-in. Not surprisingly, they closed very soon afterwards. 

The theater sat idle for four or five years. I went there and walked around one day in 1985. I should have taken some photos, but it was pretty depressing. Almost everything in the place had been vandalized beyond repair; no good souvenirs to bring home. The once-ornate ticket booth looked like someone had spent hours vandalizing it; every little square piece of its glass front broken. Crude spray-painted graffitti everywhere: “KKK” (yeah, right!), backwards swastikas, the usual “suck my this” and “suck my that” etc. The screens were still up but not for long. 

Around 1989 the screens were torn down and the drive-in saw “new life” as a Mexican flea market, which it still is today. I went… once.  Half the spaces were empty and the snack bar was now doling out one-dollar 24-ounce cans of King Kobra malt liquor. They should have bulldozed the whole place; the scorched earth policy would have made much more sense. Don’t know what year the Southside was built but it was owned by the same people (Leon Theaters) who owned The Mansfield drive-in, which I will be writing about in an upcoming blog. The Mansfield was the last operating drive-in in Fort Worth, surviving until 1992.  More later…



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