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Christmas at the Drive-In

Take a break from your hectic holiday schedule this weekend and catch a flick at Georgia’s oldest drive-in theater. 
by Kayla Smith

In the six decades since Jesup Drive-In Theatre opened, drive-ins have become a distant memory. In 1958, there were 4,000 drive-in theaters in the United States. Today, there are only 372, four of those located in Georgia. Jesup’s is the oldest in the state, but with new owners and recent renovations, business is better than ever.

Though Jesup is a small town, about an hour and a half drive from Savannah, there’s nothing small about its drive-in. The theater, located on the Savannah Highway and open seven days a week, regularly draws visitors from at least 13 surrounding towns.

Ward Riggins, whose grandfather opened the theater in 1948, says the drive-in has made Jesup a “mecca of entertainment,” with up to a thousand visitors in an average week and about 50,000 per year.

Ralph and Jamie Hickox bought the theater in February and began the process of updating its equipment, while reserving its nostalgic past. “They want to make it a real experience,” says Riggins.

The theater now has a new state-of-the-art digital projection system for one of its two screens, but the concession stand is stuck back in 1950. Local high school students work as carhops, dressed in poodle skirts, to serve moviegoers the classics: hamburgers, hotdogs, funnel cakes and fried Oreos – a customer favorite.

This is the first holiday season for the new owners, and it’s already been a busy one. They’re embracing the holiday spirit with a Christmas toy drive, screenings of Christmas cartoons and, of course, releases of upcoming blockbuster hits.

Set some time aside to bring your family to the Jesup on December 15 for “Christmas at the Drive-In” from 6-8 p.m. After free hot chocolate and pictures with Santa for the kids, you can watch a holiday favorite on the big screens, which will be playing “The Polar Express” and “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (the original animated version).

The evening’s regular movies start at 8:30 p.m., with “The Hobbit” playing on the digital screen and “Breaking Dawn 2,” followed by Flight, on the 35mm screen.

Admission is $7 for adults and $3 for children, but bring a new, unwrapped gift for the toy drive and you’ll get in for $3.

Photos courtesy of Ward Riggins. 

Kayla Smith is an intern at Deep South. Find out more about her in our Contributors section.

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  • Ward Riggins / December 14, 2012

    Thanks a million Kayla. You did a great and very professional job. I have put it on our FB and Twitter.

  • MA Goode / December 22, 2012

    I called to verify what was playing….stated Santa here at 6, dinner at 8:30. When gate opened, I asked time for Santa to arrive..was told ended last week. I brought my 4yr grandson to see Santa…please change phone message. Thanks.