Ohio Icon: Lynn Auto Theatre

Ohio Icon: Lynn Auto Theatre

Rich Reding stands beside the sign for Lynn Auto Theatre.

The Lynn Auto Theatre is both Ohio’s oldest drive-in movie theatre and the world’s second-oldest continuously operated outdoor theatre.

Location: 2.5 miles west of Interstate 77 at the junction of U.S. 250 and State Route 21.

Provenance: Opened in 1937, the Lynn drive-in movie theatre was originally called Boyer’s Auto Theatre and was one of several neighboring businesses that Roland Boyer owned and operated near Strasburg. After Franklin Ward and Ray McCombs purchased the drive-in in 1948, they renamed it for McCombs’s daughter, Judy Lynn. The Lynn Auto Theatre thrived during the 1950s, when the post-World War II baby boom fueled the popularity of the casual outdoor movie and concession-stand experience. By the time that veteran movie theatre manager Richard “Dick” Reding acquired the Lynn in 1957, there were about 400 drive-ins in Ohio and some 4,000 throughout the United States and Canada.

Although competition from VCRs and cable TV closed many drive-ins in the 1970s and 1980s, the Reding family kept the Lynn Auto Theatre open and up-to-date. In 1967, they added a second screen; in 1996, they supplemented its vintage post-mounted speakers with a modern FM stereo sound system; in 2005, they put up a retro-style neon marquee; and most recently, they installed digital projectors for both screens.

Significance: The Lynn Auto Theatre is both Ohio’s oldest drive-in movie theatre and the world’s second-oldest continuously operated outdoor theatre. It’s also one of the few remaining drive-ins with a grass lot where folks can relax in lawn chairs or spread out blankets.

Currently: Dick Reding’s grandsons, Rich Reding and Jamie Reding, own the Lynn and run it with help from family members. With spaces for 245 vehicles at the first screen, and 145 at the other, the theatre features first-run, family-oriented movies. “Kids that once came with their parents have grown up and are now bringing their kids here,” says Rich Reding. While families are welcome to bring snacks, the Lynn’s old-school concession stand serves hot dogs, hamburgers, and popcorn made in a 1962 Cretor popcorn machine. “It’s an Olympic model,” says Reding, “and one of the oldest Cretors still in use.”

It’s a little-known fact that: The Lynn Auto Theatre’s slogans — “Come As You Are in the Family Car” and “See the Stars under the Stars” — were coined by Dick Reding.