Remembering the Ridge Drive-In Theater

My friend Rosanna Bencoach recently scanned in a few bits of memorabilia from the Ridge Drive-In Theater, which her father managed from 1953–1965, and she’s kind enough to let me share them here. Although I’m a generation too young to have ever gone there, I’m told the theater was adjacent to Hydraulic, between the bypass and 29, or basically where Kroger and Dominion Power are located now. Here’s a colorized black and white aerial photo, taken in the late fifties:

Ridge Drive-In Theater, Charlottesville, Virginia

You can also see scans of the April 1964 and August 1961 movie schedules, with features including The Facts of Life (starring Bob Hope and Lucille Ball), West Side Story, Flipper, and Gidget Goes to Rome.

11 thoughts on “Remembering the Ridge Drive-In Theater”

  1. Likely it was segregated at least until 1963 when Virginia laws changed. Many drive-ins were white only, some had blacks pay to watch from fields outside the theater, some had dual parking areas and concession stands. If you have a UVa account, you can probably read this article in JSTOR, otherwise Google Books has at least a pertinent page 223, but not the footnotes:
    Shannon Bell, “From Ticket Booth to Screen Tower: An Architectural Study of Drive-in Theaters in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C.-Richmond Corridor,” in
    Perspectives in Vernacular Architecture, Vol. 9 (2003).

    The Ridge Drive-In was owned by Neighborhood Theatres, whose flagship State Theatre in Falls Church was the scene of a civil rights battle in 1963.
    “Before that time, blacks had to go all the way to Washington, D.C. to watch movies.” Disgraceful. Now the State Theatre is the venue for blue festivals addressing civil rights history. Graceful.

  2. I think it made it to the late 70’s as I remember seeing a Bruce Lee movie there. Seeing Lee kick butt on a screen that size was just awesome as I remember it.

  3. I don’t remember anything about segregation at the Ridge Drive-In, if it existed. I was only 3 in 1963, and never heard it discussed later.

    My memories of the theater are mostly from the next two summers. I remember a different kind of “self-segregation.” Cars with young couples would arrive first, and claim the spaces along the back fence. Cars with several young children would tend to park near the front, close to the swings, teeter-totters and play area that was located below the screen.

    At that age, I understood the one, but was baffled by the other. :)

  4. I remember seeing the quality movie “Wanda Nevada” starring Brooke Shields, there, late 70s or early 80s? Good times in the pick up truck with a bean bag, dog and siblings.

  5. I remember going to the Terrace Theaters (now in the footprint of the WF parking lot?) Late 70s or early 80s. A couple times we saw naughty bits that children aren’t allowed to watch on the Ridge’s big screen, while waiting for parents to pick us up. Of course we snuck into watch Aliens too so no big deal.

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