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Blue Ridge Icon – The Swan Drive-In Theatre

One of only four drive-in theaters left in Georgia, The Swan Drive-In Theatre was built in 1955, by Jack Jones, Sr. and W.H. Tilley, known as “H,” who already owned two theaters in Blue Ridge, the Rialto and the Royal. Because televisions were scarce up in the mountains, business was brisk at the two theaters, and the men knew they could capture an even wider audience if they built a drive-in.

After leasing several acres of land from the City of Blue Ridge, Jack and H began a difficult process of preparing the land for the drive-in. Topography and good ol’ red Georgia clay made grading and fill a challenge and the two were almost ready to scrap the mission, but they were encouraged to keep on going by the excavators that were working for them. Finally, with the task of excavating and grading behind them, Jack and H were able to move forward with the relatively simple tasks of wiring for sound, paving, and building the concession stand and box office. One final obstacle remained, erecting the screen itself, which was done by hiring a crane from Atlanta to lift and piece the screen together at the cost of $100.

H Tilley was the one to come up with the name for the drive-in. He wanted to name it after the graceful swans he had seen in England prior to taking part in the Omaha Beach Landing during World War II. Jack, agreed–it would be an easy name to make into a neon sign!

The Swan Drive-In Theatre opened in 1955 and drew folks from small communities all across the North Georgia mountains. And so it continues to this day–64 years later–where this weekend’s showing is the double-feature “Toy Story 4” and “The Lion King”.

Movies play seven days a week, with double features Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for kids 4-11 years old. Concessions are available (including funnel cakes!!). Cash only; no cards accepted.

The movie schedule for Swan Drive-In Theatre, circa November, 1959

Special thanks to Mrs. H (Blanch) Tilley for so graciously speaking with me about the beginnings of Blue Ridge’s Swan Drive-In Theatre.

 

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