Historic Landmark May be Eligible for Federal Rehabilitation Tax Credits

 The Brazos Drive-In Theatre in Granbury has been showing first-run movies since opening night June 5, 1952, when the theater featured The First Time, a “delightful family comedy” starring Robert Cummings and Barbara Hale. Featuring two cartoons each night, the Brazos charged 49 cents per person, but Wednesday and Thursday were “bargain car” nights when enthusiastic moviegoers could pile in station wagons for 60 cents per carload.

After 60 years of continuous operation, the Brazos Drive-In is for sale, looking for its fourth owners and caretakers. Current owner Jennifer Miller is ready to retire. As the third owner of the Brazos, Miller preserved the valuable North Texas landmark and kept it open for more than 27 years, the longest of the theater’s owners. Miller said the Brazos Drive-In is a thriving, viable business and bona-fide tourism attraction for Granbury, and she would like it to be preserved.

“The Brazos Drive-In has been part of my life for years. My kids grew up working there, and the theater is near and dear to my heart,” Miller said. “I want the Brazos to always be a thriving regional theater and vital attraction for Granbury.”

When it opened, the Brazos featured in-car speakers and the latest in sound and projection equipment. But today, like other mom-and-pop drive-ins nationwide, the Brazos must upgrade to new digital projection technology in order to stay open. According to Miller, the cost of such an upgrade will be $70,000 to $100,000. The drive-in is and its five-acres are for sale for $575,000.

With a huge screen that’s 35-feet high and 70-feet wide and its original ticket booth, marquee, and concession stand, the Brazos is an established and familiar landmark on the west end of downtown Granbury. In 2003, the City of Granbury designated the Brazos as a Granbury Historic Landmark. In 2010, Preservation Texas named the Brazos as one of Texas’ Most Endangered Places.

“The Brazos is an icon of mid-20th century drive-in culture,” said Diane Lock, first vice president of Preserve Granbury. “Throughout the country, there are very few drive-in theaters that remain open and even fewer that have stayed in continuous operation. Yet “new” drive-ins are now being built. We have this jewel here in Granbury that should be preserved and help keep vital for future generations.

Because the Brazos Drive-In is a significant historic resource remaining from the “fabulous ‘50s,” developers who rehabilitate it may be eligible to apply for Federal rehabilitation tax credits. Up to 20 percent of the amount spent on rehabilitation of the drive-in may be applied as an income tax credit if the drive-in is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.

Miller and Lock said the drive-in could be preserved while being adapted for other income-producing uses. Miller suggested such uses as building an entertainment stage in front of the screen, or opening an outdoor ice-skating rink during winter months.

The Brazos has longtime fans throughout North Texas who bring their families to enjoy outdoor movies and popcorn made in the theater’s original 1950’s popper.  One fan, Cliff Knight, posted his thoughts on the theater’s web site, http://www.thebrazos.com .

“I can’t express the joy I have, getting to enjoy the ‘drive-in experience,’ with my daughter,” Knight wrote. “Please keep up the good work. Here’s to another 50 years.”