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Iuka Drive-In

For a nostalgic experience this summer, head to Iuka and catch a movie at Mississippi’s only drive-in theater.

Written and Researched by Leslie Criss  |  Photographed by Joe Worthem


“I remember my very first time at a drive-in. It was in Belmont, Mississippi, and I was 8 years old. Families flocked to the drive-in then, and I saw people just having a good time. I knew then that was what I wanted to do. And from the time I was 18, that’s what I did.” — Leslie Curtis, Iuka Drive-In owner


Mention a drive-in theater these days, and chances are, puzzled looks will be among the responses. It’s a big bit of nostalgia that once dotted the landscape in towns large and small. Today, drive-in theaters are near extinction. Except for the Iuka Drive-In on West Quitman Street in Tishomingo County, there are no other working drive-ins in Mississippi, and only a few hundred remaining in the United States.


Leslie Curtis, 61, of Waverly, Tennessee, owns the Iuka Drive-In as well as The Pink Cadillac Drive-In in Centreville, Tennessee. The Iuka Drive-In was built in the early 1950s by the Jourdan family on land that they owned. Curtis has run it for 35 years.


For those who have never experienced the magic of the drive-in, here’s how it works. The Iuka Drive-In has parking space for 200 vehicles. Movie lovers pay $10 per person (ages 12 and younger are free), park near a speaker facing the large, off-the-ground screen, visit the concession building and get back in their cars before the movie starts at dusk.


Some people bring lawn chairs and sit outside their cars to watch the movies. In Iuka, Curtis shows a double feature on movie nights — Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Monday when school is out; Friday and Saturday when school is in session.


The Iuka Drive-In usually closes in early November for winter and reopens in spring — often in March, if a big picture is coming out. Once last year, the drive-in had close to a full lot.

“We had a crowd — I can’t remember the movie, but it was a popular one,” Curtis said. “We don’t have big crowds as often as we used to. And we don’t have to — we’re good with 40 or 50 cars. But a big crowd is great, too.”


In the early years, slaw dogs were a big seller in the concession building. Gene Jourdan, an 86-year-old Iuka resident worked off and on at the drive-in in the 1950s and early ’60s. He vividly recalls one long-ago night when they ran out of slaw.


“People kept asking for slaw dogs, but we were out of slaw,” he said, laughing. “We decided to try to make slaw in the snowball machine. It worked. The slaw was fine. But we did get complaints from people who were finding slaw in their snowballs.”


No slaw dogs these days, but hotdogs and hamburgers are popular, as well as nachos and popcorn.


To find out what’s playing at the Iuka Drive-In, go to facebook.com/iuka.drivein or call 662-423-2153.

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