The Apache Drive-In
Tyler, TX


Whenever I start a set of pages for a new drive-in theater, I like to provide a background story to set the scene for the reader.

Our family reunion is held each year at Lake Jacksonville. Having heard rumors that a drive-in was located in nearby Tyler, I decided that I would search for it at my next opportunity.

In 2001, I was able to visit the Apache during the day. I took nearly two dozen pictures of the property. You'll find the best of these further on in this report.

On my return home from the reunion, I sent out the following e-mail:


On 06/17/01 at 10:07 PM, SAIPAman Wrote:

I found the Apache Drive-In Theater in Tyler, Texas.

I can confirm that the property is now being used as a forum for 'adult' entertainment.

Tyler is located in one of the 'forest' areas of northeast Texas. The height and density of the trees make it impossible to see the screen from the road. Even the ticket booth is hard to spot. It is located up on a ridge just inside the tree line. I suspect this theater goes nearly completely unnoticed by the traffic passing by on Highway 31.

I found it by calling the box office and getting directions. The ticket booth appears to have been recently renovated. The concession stand is now boarded up and must be the adult video and book store mentioned on the marquee. The lot is a rectangular area, cleared of trees. There are no speakers, poles, or anything to indicate that such items were ever present. The parking surface is made of a heavily packed down red clay.

Whoever runs the place is either very interested in the cleanliness of the property or has no customers. I saw very little trash on the ground. There were two small trash bags sitting by the corner of the concession stand. Perhaps, the place stays open until daylight and the employees walk the parking lot before going home?

I saw no evidence of any directional antenna such as the type used at the Mission. That might not be necessary though, if you only have one screen! There is a single porthole on the projection booth. This suggests that the property was designed from the beginning to use a platter system.

The screen itself sits on top of a large berm. Approximately 1/20 of the screen is missing from the top right hand corner.

More on this theater if I ever return to Tyler!


In 2002, I was once again able to visit the Apache. This time I dared to visit the property at night while it was open for business.

On my return home, I sent out this e-mail:


On 06/16/02 at 4:34 AM, SAIPAman Wrote:

After securing a hotel room, I drove out to the Apache Drive-in Theater.

This theater shows only "adult" films. If you recall, I photographed the location extensively during the daytime last year. Pulling up to the ticket booth, I was told it was $7 for the outdoor theater and $10 for the indoor and outdoor. I opted for both.

On entering the lot, I saw the dimmest picture I had ever seen on a drive-in screen.

Parking in the third row from the screen, I got out of the car to investigate. I kept wondering "Why is the picture so dim?". The ambient light level was so low that I had difficulty making out the shapes of the cars parked around me. I searched the projection booth and the concession stand for the tell-tale light of a projector. Nothing. I just couldn't see it. One remote possibility came to mind. The screen of the Apache sits up on a dirt hill most likely created during the clearing of the lot and the construction of the berms. Perhaps a dozen feet in front of the screen sits a small enclosure.

The day I was there before, I didn't have time to scale the hill to investigate the purpose of the enclosure. Looking into it at night confirmed what I now suspected. The enclosure must house a projection TV unit. I could see a variety of green status lights inside the enclosure. That fact, coupled with the lack of light from the projection booth made a remote projector the only possibility that made sense.

I went inside to interview the management and to check out the inside of the theater.

The duty manager was less than cooperative. He refused to discuss the projection source. In fact, he was unwilling to discuss anything related to the theater.

I then went upstairs to the "indoor" theater. This area was originally the projection booth based on the design of the exterior of the building. There are no projectors inside that room. There was, however, a 35" color television set. Several patrons lounged about in chairs scattered around the room. No one seemed to notice me as I slipped out of the room and back down the stairs!

The concession stand has been renovated extensively. Based on the size and shape of the room, the serving counter must have been against the wall farthest from the highway.

I returned to my car where I recorded the GPS coordinates and monitored the action in the lot. It was so dark in the lot that I was unable to get an accurate car count. I'd estimate perhaps a dozen cars arrived or departed the lot while I was there. After about 20 minutes, I left the property. I made good time and soon found myself back at my hotel room.

This is the first theater that I've seen that uses a projection system other than standard film projectors. While not a digital projection system, the Apache's equipment does demonstrate the potential for using non-traditional projection systems.


June 2001

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This picture of the entrance to the Apache was taken from the opposite side of Highway 31. Having a hard time seeing the ticket booth in this picture? Imagine trying to find it while driving by at 50 miles per hour!

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I've now crossed over the highway and moved up the entrance lane. Although covered by shade, the ticket booth is now clearly visible. Note the entrance sign on the left side of the entrance lane.

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From the front, the ticket booth appears to be in excellent condition. Note the sign indicating the new business hours for the property. That's not a good place for sign, is it?

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Given the hours listed on this sign, my earlier speculation about the clean-up time for the property must be wrong. The "video rooms" may, or may not, have been the "indoor" theater that I visited during my trip there in 2002.

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Here's a side view of the ticket booth. From this angle, the roof appears to be newer than the rest of structure. Any carpenters out there willing to render an opinion?

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Moving past the ticket booth, I turned to the right and entered the lot. Even from this distance, the damage to the screen is very noticeable.

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