Meet Tibbs Drive-In Theatre

One of a dwindling kind, Tibbs turns 50 this summer.
As the sun sets on a sweltering summer night at the Tibbs Drive-In, vehicles ranging from compact cars to pickup trucks pull into those sought-after front-row spots, the gravel lot scattered with lawn chairs and coolers. The sounds of children running around and playing on a weathered jungle gym ring out as moviegoers line up for popcorn and candy. Regulars know the concession stand offers delights well beyond the standard boxed Milk Duds and Coke—there are tenderloin sandwiches, corn dogs, and caramel-apple chips, among other treats.

When it opened in 1967, Tibbs was equipped with only one screen. Now it hosts four, with eight movie options, and can accommodate up to 1,600 cars. The line to get in, especially on Friday and Saturday nights, can stretch a ways, to the point that owners Ed and Agnes Quilling recommend arriving at least an hour before showtime at dusk.

James Keaton comes with his family and friends as often as he can. He can still recall one of his favorite drive-in memories. “When they showed Night of the Living Dead, we were little kids in my dad’s station wagon, and this guy came in a gorilla suit,” says Keaton. “[He] was banging on the car windows, scaring us.”

The southwestside theater is the only remaining drive-in in town. Nationwide, they’re down from around 4,000 in their glory days (the 1950s and ’60s) to some 300 today. When you kick back and catch a flick here, you’ll wonder why.