Fairfax Past

Share Your Movie Theater Memories With Us

This scene greeted moviegoers as they arrived at the Lee Highway-Arlington Blvd. Drive In Theater in 1955.
This scene greeted moviegoers as they arrived at the Lee Highway-Arlington Blvd. Drive In Theater in 1955. (Fairfax County Public Library)

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Thursday, January 12, 2006

When it opened in 1954, the Lee Highway-Arlington Blvd. Drive In was the first outdoor theater with CinemaScope, or the ability to show wide-screen films.

Thousands of county residents would pull their cars into spaces, hook up the speakers and watch movies there until the Merrifield area drive-in closed in 1986 and was replaced by something called a multiplex, where more than one movie could be screened indoors.

The Fairfax-Falls Church area was dotted with such theaters, coinciding with the county's transition to a suburban bedroom community in the 1950s and '60s. Most of these theaters are now gone, but the movie memories linger for people who grew up here.

If you are one of those people, we'd like you to tell us a favorite theater story or experience. Maybe you treasured going to the Annandale Theater on Little River Turnpike, advertised as the "showplace of Northern Virginia" when it opened in 1964 with a wall-to-wall 60-foot super screen, 35mm and 70mm projection equipment, and stereo speakers in the ceiling. It was demolished in 1988.

Were you in the audience watching "My Fair Lady" at the 1965 opening of the Cinema 7 off Route 7 in Baileys Crossroads? That was a loverly place, with a crystal chandelier in the foyer and walls of gold and white. It closed 20 years later.

Remember the mural of Mount Vernon at the Fairfax Theater on Lee Highway? Or the state-of-the-art Jefferson Theatre in Falls Church, the first indoor movie house with CinemaScope and stereo sound? Do you recall the Super 29 Drive In when you drive near the Costco on West Ox Road?

Then there was the Springfield Cinema on Old Keene Mill Road, which opened in 1968 with "Rosemary's Baby" and seven years later terrified this Washington Post summer intern with "Jaws." Among other things, the theater was known for its covered unloading area and box office and its rocking chair seats. The place rocked audiences until it shut down in 1990.

If mention of these theaters triggers a memory for you, please share.

Send them by e-mail fxextra@washpost.com , by fax to 703-273-2836 or by mail to 4020 University Dr., Suite 220, Fairfax, Va. 22030. Keep it short, please, and include a daytime phone number.

-- STEPHEN C. FEHR

Some information for this story came from the 1999 book "Motion Picture Exhibition in Washington, D.C." by Robert K. Headley.


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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