Virginia State Seal Virginia Department of Historic Resources

095-5256 Moonlite Theatre

Moonlite Theatre
Photo credit: Mike Pulice/DHR, 2006

*Click on image to enlarge.

For additional information, read the Nomination Form PDF

VLR Listing Date 06/06/2007

NRHP Listing Date 08/08/2007

NRHP Reference Number 07000802

Though they occupy an important place in American popular culture, drive-ins such as the Moonlite Theatre in Washington County have been generally overlooked as places of historic significance. The Moonlite is an exceptional example, retaining its original 65-foot-tall screen, ticket booth, concession stand, and neon attraction board by the highway. Originally owned and operated by local businessman T. D. Fields, it was one of only eight drive-in theatres operating in Virginia at the time of listing in the registers in 2007. It is among the earliest surviving, constructed just 16 years after the first drive-in was introduced in New Jersey in 1933. The Moonlite opened early in the summer of 1949, and has operated continuously since. It is famous among drive-ins as the subject of at least two country-western songs, which are played before each show, with the audience often chiming in. The best-known song, from the 1970s, is entitled “Moonlite Drive-in.” In the Abingdon-Bristol area, the Moonlite is a venerated landmark, still providing entertainment and a place for social interaction to thousands of families.

Many properties listed in the registers are private dwellings and are not open to the public, however many are visible from the public right-of-way. Please be respectful of owner privacy.

VLR: Virginia Landmarks Register
NPS: National Park Service
NRHP: National Register of Historic Places
NHL: National Historic Landmark

Updated: July 20, 2022