Tiffin Drive-In Theater

Tiffin Drive-In Theater invests for the next era

New owner to invest $200,000 in operations, adding new screens

TIFFIN, OHIO – Aug. 26, 2020 – The Tiffin Drive-In Theater, 4101 SR 53, which has been in operation since 1949, is under new ownership and soon will be expanding with an investment of $200,000 for two, brand-new screens, with more improvements planned in the next few years. The business has 20 seasonal employees.

Tiffin Drive-In Theater was recently purchased by Mike Cole, a freelance writer and entrepreneur from Findlay. Among the planned changes, two new screens are to be built, an 84-foot-wide screen to replace the original screen, built when the drive-in was first opened, and a second, permanent 44-foot-wide screen. To build the screens, Tiffin Drive-In Theater will be contracting with Selby Products of Ritchfield, Ohio, which has constructed more than 2,000 drive-in movie screens throughout the world.

Cole said operations should continue as normal for the next few weeks, but expects that the new screens will be constructed beginning in early September, during which time the house on SR 53 also is to be removed. The second screen will be completed shortly after, and may not be operational during the 2020 season. Other aspects of the drive-in will also be getting a facelift over the next 3-4 years.

Cole said he and his wife were inspired to open a drive-in theater after visiting others. “We are excited to bring the Tiffin Drive-In Theater into the next era and help it to continue to be a unique attraction in Seneca County for many years to come.”

Seneca County Commissioner Mike Kerschner said, “It is great to see that even during these difficult times, the owners of Tiffin Drive-In Theater are making the commitment to invest in Seneca County.”

Tiffin Drive-In Theater is a member of the Seneca Regional Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Services.

About the Tiffin-Seneca Economic Partnership

Started in 1983 as the Seneca Industrial and Economic Development Corp. (SIEDC), the Tiffin-Seneca Economic Partnership is a private, non-profit corporation dedicated to driving positive economic, downtown, and community development in Tiffin and Seneca County, Ohio, which consistently ranks among the top communities nationally for economic development. Learn more about the great things going on in Tiffin and Seneca County at http://www.tiffinseneca.org.

Tiffin’s historic drive-in theater open for 2018 season

Drive In Neon

Rendering of the proposed restoration of the original neon sign at the Tiffin Drive-In.

Created in the 1920’s, drive-in movie theaters were once a staple of rural communities, counting more than 4,000 theaters nationwide at the height of their popularity in the 1960’s and 70’s. Today, less than 10% of those theaters still exist, and we are fortunate to have one right here in Tiffin, Ohio.

The Tiffin Drive-In Theater opened in 1949 and will celebrate its 70th year in continuous operation next summer. Current owners Rod and Donna Saunders purchased the theater in 2011, when the previous owners decided to retire from the business. The Saunders’ got their start in the drive-in theater business with the original Field of Dreams Drive-In, which they built in the backyard of their family home in Liberty Center as a way to provide an inclusive family entertainment experience, and they were excited at the prospect of expanding this venture.

After purchasing the long-time Tiffin establishment, the Saunders’ immediately set about making improvements to the theater and its grounds, including the purchase of a new projector, the addition of a second screen, updates to the concession stand and its equipment, and the transition from film to digital movies in 2013. In 2018, the name was reverted to Tiffin Drive-In Theater.

Their next big project is restoring the original neon sign. When the theater opened in 1949, it featured a large neon sign affixed to the back of the screen, facing SR 53. The neon was removed in the 1970’s due to maintenance concerns. In 2017, the Saunders’ began working with local neon artist Michael Flechtner to recreate the original neon sign. To this end, the Saunders have created the Historic Drive-In Theater Revitalization Fund, a non-profit organization with IRC Section 501(c)(3) status for the sole purpose of fundraising to repair iconic symbols of operational drive-in theaters in Ohio. Find more information or make a donation here.