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‘Piece of Americana’: Iuka Drive-In providing nostalgia

June 30, 2019
In this May 31, 2019 photo, Leslie Curtis, Sr. serves a soda to a customer at the Iuka Drive-In in LIka, Miss. Curtis owns the theater, which is the last drive-in still in operation in the state. (Gabby Boyd/The Daily Corinthian via AP)

IUKA, Miss. (AP) — Imagine driving three hours every weekend to make sure a family business is up and running.

Leslie Curtis Sr. drives from Waverly, Tenn. to open and close the Iuka Drive-In.

But this businessman knows it is worth being a part of living history as the only drive-in still in operation in Mississippi and one of the few left across America.

The drive-in has been a focal point of Tishomingo County history since the early 1950s. According to Curtis, it was built by the Jourdan family of Iuka and was once a popular place for families and teenagers.

Curtis’ son, Leslie, rents the theater and land from Bubba Jourdan. Leslie owns the Pink Cadillac Drive-in in Centerville, Tenn. and another theater in Alabama.

According to Curtis, his family has been in the movie business since 1975.

“Our goal is to continue doing the business we need to by trying to keep drive-in theaters from going extinct,” said Curtis, who has owned walk-in theaters as well.

Curtis recalls some of the business’s busiest nights were when the movie “It” and “The Mummy” hit the theaters.

“We had 250 cars parked here and the concession stand was packed all night,” said Curtis. “Lawn chairs were everywhere.”

The Iuka Drive-In was once a local hot spot, but it now has a more significant role since it’s the only operating drive-in movie theater in Mississippi. The historical spot attracts customers from all across Mississippi such as Tripp Hughes of Saltillo.

“I’ve never been to one. My family and I heard about the drive-in on Facebook and I thought it would be great opportunity for my siblings and I to experience it,” said the 21-year-old Ole Miss student.

Ten-year-old Allyn Tucker has always heard her parents and grandparents talk about going to the Iuka Drive-In when they were her age.

“I asked my dad what a drive-in was and he told me. When I found out you get to sit outside or in the car and watch a movie I asked if we could go and see ‘Aladdin’,” said the Corinth native.

One lady said the drive-in takes people down memory lane.

“If you look back at older pictures like ‘Greece’ and ‘Twister’, they were all featured in drive-in movie theaters. It gives people a chance to experience a piece of history,” said Kathryn “Katie” Adams, a resident of Iuka.

Adams has helped manage the theater for 25 years. She started going there when her son was six-years-old.

“There was nothing to do in Iuka and so every weekend I would take my son to the drive-in. After watching the same movies over and over again we got tired and we would go in and help the staff with concessions,” said Adams, who is now the supervisor at the drive-in.

She became good friends with the owners and continued to volunteer.

“Some of the best parts about working here is you meet people from everywhere and some of them are very interesting, but the majority of them just want that classic movie experience,” said Adams.

Curtis said it costs around $3,000 to $4,000 to bring a movie to the drive-in.

“Concession pays for everything. That’s how we keep the doors open,” said Curtis.

The concession stand sells nachos, hamburgers, hotdogs, popcorn, lemonade, other drinks and candy. The drive-in is open Friday, Saturday and Monday nights.

Adams said it costs only $9 to watch two movies. Children who are 12 and under can watch the movies for free.

“I encourage anyone to experience it, because it’s a dying piece of Americana,” said Adams. “Many of them have shut down and we are doing everything we can to keep this one running.”


Information from: The Daily Corinthian.

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