I would venture to say that at least half the area natives alive today have visited the Trail Drive-In, near DuPont City at one time or the other.  My first visit was in the mid 50s and my last was in 1969.  (I saw M.A.S.H).  We had a half dozen Drive In's here in the valley alone.  Even Elkview had a Drive In.  Here you could turn your kids lose, drink beer, smoke, just about anything you could do at home, all the while enjoying the movie.  Of course, rain tended to dampen things a bit when you had to start running the windshield wipers!  I'd guess that a fair percentage of current valley residents were possibly conceived at our local Drive Ins.  ;)

I lived in Holly Lawn next door to this theater in the 60's. It was different in that it had a motel at the base of the screen I can't remember how many rooms, 3 or 4 but a motel Back in the early days Rt 60 was a bit like Rt 66, in that it was the main road to Virginia. ... Suzanne Powers


E.R. Custer first appeared in the area in 1916, accepting a position “with a local moving picture distributing concern” in Gallipolis, Ohio. In December 1945, Custer, along with Beulah M. Custer and W.H. Erwin Jr., formed the Auto-Park Theater company of Charleston. The company was authorized to issue 500 shares of stock. The $100,000 construction was underway by June 1947 on U.S. 60 at DuPont City.

E.R. Custer claimed the 50-by-70-foot screen was “the largest of its kind in the U.S.” The projection booth was equipped with RCA drive-in equipment placed 250 feet from the screen. A concession stand served snacks. There were picnic tables and a playground adjacent to the theater.

On Friday, Aug. 1, 1947, Trail Drive-In on West DuPont Avenue at Belle opened. It opened at 8 p.m. with two shows. Hundreds of cars (there was space for 650) were the first to view an oversized screen with individual loudspeakers that brought the sound into the car.

Custer and his associates — E. Floyd Price of Newark, Ohio, and Rube Shor of Cincinnati, Ohio — began work on a second drive-in theater on a 22-acre site in St. Albans. The Valley Drive-In Theater opened on July 23, 1948, and closed in August 1996. The remnants of the Valley Drive-In are still visible, with the screen turned into a sign for 84 Lumber near the intersection of U.S. 60 and old U.S. 35.

The now-closed Kanawha City Kmart was the site of the Owens Drive-In from 1953 to the 1970s. Al Boudouris of Toledo flew his Navion plane into Charleston to open the Owens Drive-In. It was the 154th theater Boudouris designed. His other drive-ins were located in West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois and Michigan.

Both the Owens Drive-In and Valley Drive-In Theater closed because of the value of the land, although the Owens Drive-In moved closer to Marmet and survived until sometime in the mid-1980s.

This ad appeared in the Charleston Daily Mail Friday evening, August 1st, 1947

In the extreme blow-up above, you can see the Trail in it's last days


84 Lumber Co. Erecting Building Where Many Enjoyed Outdoor Movies

Sat, Aug 6th, 1977

The screen once lighted by the stars of Hollywood faced the ground as if shamed by the Trail Drive-in's loss of crowds. The projection house had weathered miserably and wrecking crews that had already leveled other parts of  the theater grounds at Belle had begun to take their toll.

The desolation wasn't a scene from a movie playing at the Trail — it was the real thing — and the demolition may  be complete by today. Land that once sported a booming theater is now a construction site -for a retail lumber store. This drive-in has yielded to the lumber business. But the fading of the Trail by no means marks the end of  the drive-in movie business, at least so far as Frank Gunnoe, manager of Owens Drive-In at Marmet is concerned.

"It's different from being in an indoor theater - people are much more relaxed." Gunnoe said of the business
he's been involved in for nearly 15 years. "They can relax and enjoy the movies. The kids can run in and out of the concession stand. If they want to smoke, they can smoke; if they want to drink a beer, they can drink a beer." he said.

The 51-year-old Gunnoe recalls the 1940s when cars crowded into the outdoor theaters. He's seen business when it was good and bad. movies at their worst, and people of all ages pass through the ticket booth. Different kinds of movies attract different kinds of people, he said. "With H-rated movies, you get the teenagers, younger people.  More sexually explicit movies — "raunchy ones" — attract older moviegoers. Westerns, once very popular, now have  trouble getting an audience.

Drive-ins rarely get the first-run movies showing at downtown theaters because those travel the indoor circuit
before being offered to drive-ins. For Gunnoe. competition must often wait until such films are washed up indoors. Attitudes about drive-in theaters change often. In the 1950s, a very popuar era for them, drive-ins didn't have the bad image they had assumed by the late 1960s. Gunnoe said.
Business this summer has been good, Gunnoe said, noting that nearly 1,300 people went to his drive-in one night last weekend. Friday and Saturday nights usually attract about 1100; weeknights about 500.

July 27 was the first night for "The Van" and "The Pom Pom Girls" at St. Albans' Valley Drive-In. The grounds seemed crowded for a weeknight — one car filled with teenagers, the next overflowing with small children,   parents and others who looked like grandparents. It's doubtful either of the movies would claim Oscars. Without seeing the title line from the first film it was not clear whether the movies were playing in the order listed in  the paper. But the second one was undeniably "The Van." The recent radio tune about the guy and his Chevy van served as the theme song — rather a quaint idea. Except the guy in the movie had areally nice, bright yellow Dodge!....  Charleston Daily Mail




The Dixie Drive-in... Rand

Lil Abners, DuPont City. Would later become famous as the Mountaineer Room



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