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Beltline Drive-In Theater
Wyoming Michigan
Michigan Drive-In Theaters - Michigandriveins.com
Name: Beltline Drive-In (Grand Rapids)
Aka: Beltline 3 Drive-In
GPS: 42.911861,-85.701054
Address: 1400 W. 28th St. Wyoming, MI 49509
County: Kent
Open Date: 7/10/48
Close Date: 9/87
Status: Demolished, parking lot now on site
Car Capacity: 850
Screen Count: 3
Owners: Jack Loeks Theatres (1948-present)
Notes: The second drive-in to open in Grand Rapids
Submit: Info On This Drive-In
Beltline Drive-In

Beltline Drive-In Theater
News Articles

News Article: Theater pioneer John 'Jack' Loeks Sr. dies When John "Jack" Loeks Sr. opened the single-screen Midtown Theater in 1944, the young Grand Rapids businessman launched a career that would revolutionize the way people watch movies. Through the golden era of big-screen drive-ins to megaplexes such as Studio 28 and Celebration Cinema, Loeks left his mark on the silver screen. "He was a pioneer in the movie business," son John D. Loeks Jr. said this morning. His father -- who popularized the concept of multiscreen theaters -- died Sunday night at Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital, surrounded by his wife, Ruth, four children and grandchildren. He was 85. Mr. Loeks retired in 1995, and later sold his interest in Jack Loeks Theatres to his son, John, and daughters Meria Loeks, of Santa Fe, N.M., and Lanette Loeks, of Carpenteria, Calif. The chain includes the 20-screen Studio 28 in Wyoming and the 18-screen Celebration Cinema in Grand Rapids. It also includes three Norton Shores theaters, the 16-screen Cinema Carousel, Getty 4 Drive-In and Plaza 1&2.

Studio 28 revolutionized the way people watched movies, said Bob Goodrich, president of a rival chain, the Goodrich Radio & Theaters Inc. in Kentwood. "It predated other megaplexes by 20 years," he said. "The large lobbies, large screens, great service, quality picture and sound -- they were the hallmark of Jack Loeks. "It was amazing how much joy he brought to so many people. For him, it was a continuous party. His excitement about the business rubbed off on me a lot." Steve Schab, who managed Studio 28 for 12 years and now is general manager of Celebration Cinema, called Loeks a visionary. "I don't know where he hid his crystal ball, but it was crystal clear," he said. "He was a first-class showman." To Schab, Mr. Loeks' death meant "a legend's gone and an era's past." Loeks was instrumental in the growth of Wyoming along 28th Street. He was a founding member of the Wyoming Chamber of Commerce, said Schab, who also is chairman of Wyoming's Downtown Development Authority. "He was a catalyst that made things happen -- a leader in the community," he said. "Community has been so important to him. He gave so many people their first job." In 1998, Wyoming awarded him and Hy Berkowitz, the founder of Rogers Department Store, the city's first Lifetime Achievement Awards for their impact on the community's emerging shopping district. "They've obviously been the anchors of 28th Street in Wyoming," then-City Manager Donald Mason said at the ceremony. "This section of 28th Street would be in difficult shape if it weren't for those two people."

Son Jim Loeks left his father's business in 1990 to launch the Star Theatres chain, one of his father's hottest rivals in West Michigan. The rift turned high-profile when the father sued the son, arguing that the son broke an agreement not to compete, but the lawsuit was dismissed. The father and son reconciled, and both wished the trouble had never happened. "It was probably the worst year of our lives," Jim Loeks said. "He's a tough guy, he's smart, he would speak his mind. He raised me to be tough, smart, also." John Loeks Jr. said his father believed the megaplexes gave moviegoers more options. He started the business with the Midtown Theater on Pearl Street NW in 1944, running newsreels during World War II. Mr. Loeks tried his hand at several businesses before he got into movie theaters. In his early years, he established a sub-assembly plant for the B-29 bomber during World War II, and once sold Christmas trees out of his home. "He grew up in East Grand Rapids during the Depression -- it was a very formative thing in his life," his son said. "Like the many other families in that era, his father lost most of what he had accumulated. My father started with very little." Then, a 29-year-old son of a traveling salesman and a missionary, Mr. Loeks had operated a theater downtown since 1944 and was looking for a spot for the latest craze: a drive in. He found a gravel pit and built his Beltline Drive-In there. Seventeen years later, in 1965, he built an indoor theater next to the drive-in and named it Studio 28. He spent the rest of his career adding to that screen.

John Loeks said his father -- who once was in a crowd scene of the 1963 Frankie Avalon movie "Beach Party" -- was creative and always coming up with new ideas. "He built the world's first 12-screen theater, and the world's first 20-screen theater," he said. "He recognized the fact it was good to be able to show all of the available Hollywood products in one place." Jim Loeks said his father was a showman at heart. "It was kind of the philosophy, that it's all about the guest experience, making it a special night out," he said. Mr. Loeks, who suffered from Parkinson's disease, lived the past 2 1/2 years at a retirement center. He continued to maintain an office after he retired. "He was a wonderful father," John Loeks said. "He taught me to be truthful, and to treat people fairly. That was a recurring lesson from him. He was also a man who enjoyed life." The brothers were thankful his family could be with their father when he died. Jim Loeks said the family gathered in the father's room at Spectrum Health Butterworth Campus, where they held hands, and sang soft songs. Later, they told stories about a man he described as "one of Grand Rapids' favorite sons." "It was a very moving evening, a great send-off to a great guy," he said. "Our family is just in a state of shock because he's always been there."

While he was known for his cinema career, Mr. Loeks had many other interests. A member of the Merchant Marine at age 17, he was an avid hunter and fisherman who was involved in environmental issues. He was a pilot, and owned planes most of his life. Once, he picked up comedian Bob Hope in Chicago and flew him to Grand Rapids for an appearance. Funeral arrangements are pending. (John Agar and Rob Kirkbride - The Grand Rapids Press Monday, 2/23/04)


Beltline Drive-In Theater
History & Comments

Status: Gone, site is now Studio 28 indoor theater parking lot. (Michigandriveins.com 10/98)

Update: The Beltline's marquee, which is nearly identical to the Getty's, is now used by the Studio 28 indoor theatre, and the flea market. The building formerly used as Jack Loeks Theatres main office is now vacant, and for sale, as they have relocated. This building was originally part of the main screen tower structure. (Michigandriveins.com 4/27/03)

Update: A friend of mine grew up in a little area called Wyoming, Michigan. She was born and raised there. Anyway, she said that the Beltline Drive-in was haunted by many spirits. She's done a little research about the drive-in's history and did find out that a heavy-set woman did die in the women's bathroom that was located in the snack bar (concession stand). Her two young children were standing around near the snack bar counter waiting for her to come out of the bathroom, but she had a heart attack in the bathroom and died. No one knows if the kids were put in a foster home or went to live with relatives. However, the ghost of the mother of those two children is said to haunt that bathroom and the snack bar. People have seen her walk straight through the bathroom door and walk through the concession stand, looking for her kids. She's been there for a very long time. Some other hauntings there are on the property itself, where the vehicles use to park to watch the movies. A mixture of ghosts haunt that old property. My friend said that when she used to go there as a kid, she'd see tons of different ghosts there. They'd tap on the windows of cars, play with the speakers, play on the playground equipment, and even appear to some of the drive-in employees and patrons. A handful of ghosts are those of small children, and the rest of them are ghosts of adults. A lot of people talked about the drive-in being haunted. The ghosts there also enjoyed playing in the snack bar with the soda machines and the popcorn! She said that it was a fun place to go see movies. She says that she thinks that the drive-in property may have been farmland at one time because a lot of the ghosts look like they're from the 1900's to the 1930's. There's also an indoor movie theatre called Studio 28 on 28th street there in Wyoming, Michigan, that's haunted by a few spirits, too. If anyone would like to share any stories about the Beltline Drive-in, or any other drive-in that's haunted, please email me! (Joseph 6/1/03)

Update: The Beltline Drive-In Theatre in Grand Rapids MI opened in 1948 and closed in 1988. (Sid Beintema 9/25/03)

Update: I worked at the Beltline Drive-In from the time I was 14 until I left at 21. I managed the concession stand and my family also worked there over the years. I never heard or saw any ghosts. I'm not saying that there weren't any but after reading the story on this website, I was wondering who the stories are coming from. I'm just interested if the person worked there. I would probably know them. (Brenda Bryan (Brown) maiden name 9/27/04)

Update: The second drive-in to open in the Grand Rapids area was the Beltline. It opened on July 10th, 1948. Following the Cascades lead, the Beltline became a twin screen theatre on April 25th, 1978 and a three-screener shortly thereafter. The ad found for that date says "Beltline 3" but only lists movies for two screens. (MichiganDriveIns.com 11/13/04)

Update: The info I sent 9/25/03 about the Beltline Drive-In Theatre closing in 1988 is wrong, I found some pictures dated November, 1987. Therefore, I think the theatre was torn down sometime in the summer of 1987. Thank you. (Sid Beintema 12/14/05)

Update: I have an original row marker barrel, row 6 with Bugs and Daffy Duck hand painted on it in my shop for a trash barrel. (Earl G. 1/13/07)

Update: I was a teenager in the Beltline''s dying days. Remember seeing Bill Murray''s Stripes and midnight showings of Animal House & Rocky Horror. Nobody ever stayed in their cars, everybody sat on the hoods and/or wandered around. Alot of drinking, partying and what the kids call nowadays hooking up. The marquee stayed up long after the drive-in was demolished, and my friends and I always joked that Bugs and Goofy were happily whipping off everybody going by on 28th Street (look at the pictures). (Michigan Mike/Waterwinterwonderland.com 6/28/08)

Update: This was indeed farmland- and not so very long ago. I grew up about two miles from this theater in the 50''s. This was nearly the only business on 28th Street at the time. I actually rode a horse through the field where Studio 28 was later built. Think about it. As valuable as commercial frontage on 28th became by 1970, could anyone have afforded to buy up this much acreage for such a low profit enterprise?. (Paul Moore/Waterwinterwonderland.com 1/6/09)

Update: Studio 28 is now closed as of November of 2008. (Scott/Waterwinterwonderland.com 9/19/12)


Beltline Drive-In Theater Gallery
Click Thumbnails For Large Images
Michigandriveins Image
Beltline Grand Opening Ad
July 10, 1948
GRPL Image
Beltline Aerial 1950s
GRPL Image
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Beltline Aerial 1950s
GRPL Image
Michigandriveins Image
Beltline Aerial
1950s
Jack Loeks Theaters Collection Image
Beltline Aerial 1950s
Jack Loeks Theaters Collection
Beltline Drive-In
Topo Map
Jack Loeks Theaters Collection Image
Beltline Panorama 1950s
Jack Loeks Theaters Collection
Jack Loeks Theaters Collection Image
Beltline Hi-Res 1950s
Jack Loeks Theaters Collection
Jack Loeks Theaters Collection Image
Beltline Screen 1960s
Jack Loeks Theaters Collection
Jack Loeks Theaters Collection Image
Beltline Aerial 1950s or 60s
Jack Loeks Theaters Collection
Jack Loeks Theaters Collection Image
Beltline Aerial Late-1970s
Jack Loeks Theaters Collection
 Jack Loeks Theaters Collection Image
Studio 28 Marquee
Jack Loeks Theaters Collection
Jack Loeks Theaters Collection Image
Beltline Aerial Late-1970s
Jack Loeks Theaters Collection
Michigandriveins Image
Beltline Aerial
Late-1970s
Waterwinterwonderland Image
Studio 28 with Beltline in background
1987 - Waterwinterwonderland Image
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Beltline Screen
1980s
Lita Sandy Image
Beltline March 1988
Lita Sandy Image
Lita Sandy Image
Beltline March 1988
Lita Sandy Image
Michigandriveins Image
Beltline Marquee
1998
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Beltline Marquee
2003
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Similar Getty Marquee
2003
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Beltline 3 Ad
1982
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Beltline Aerial
1965
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Beltline Aerial
1972
Pinballrebel.com Image
Beltline Speakers
Pinballrebel.com Image
Lita Sandy Image
Beltline Ticket
Lita Sandy Image
Michigandriveins Image
Beltline Matches
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