In a story which would resonate with many Galionites, particularly those aged 40 and older, the Mansfield News Journal reported Wednesday on a poignant moment in the passage of area cultural history.
In an article by the News Journal’s Lou Whitmire, which can be read here, the paper shared that the familiar site of the Sunset Drive-In Theatre screen on the corner of State Routes 309 and 314 in the City of Ontario is no more. The screen came tumbling down on Tuesday to make way for a retention pond and new barn for a Shelby-based business.
Drive-in movie theaters, also known as “ozoners,” were first introduced in 1933 in Camden, New Jersey. Richard Hollingshead, a sales manager at his father’s Whiz Auto Products store, was looking for a way to make movie-going more accessible to families who couldn’t afford or didn’t want to go to traditional movie theaters.
The first official drive-in theater, called “Automobile Movie Theatre,” opened in June 1933 with the comedy film “Wives Beware.” The drive-in theater quickly gained popularity, and by the 1950s, there were over 4,000 drive-in theaters in the United States. The peak of the drive-in’s popularity coincided with the rise of the automobile and suburbanization. Families could pack into their cars and enjoy a movie without having to worry about babysitters or dressing up.
According to the website Cinema Treasures, the Sunset opened as the Mansfield-Galion Drive-In on June 18, 1947, showing the movie “Frontier Gal” with Yvonne DeCarlo, later to become TV’s “Lily Munster.” It became the Sunset in 1953. Movies continued to be shown there until the early 2000s.
The narrative on Cinema Treasures has been updated to reflect the demolition. The page, with photos, can be accessed here.