Movies Under the Stars

France Avenue drive-in once boasted “the world’s biggest screen.”
In this photo of the France Avenue Drive-in, ca. 1975, the top of the 24-story Wells Fargo building, once the tallest building in Bloomington, is visible behind the screen.

The Mann France Avenue Drive-in opened June 15, 1966, on the grounds of a former garbage dump at Interstate 494 and France Avenue. Advertised as the “world’s most distinctive and beautiful drive-in theater” with the “world’s biggest screen,” more than 1,700 cars drove in to see its debut film, Our Man Flint starring James Coburn.

For almost 20 years, the drive-in provided summertime entertainment. The air-conditioned snack bar filled the air with the scent of hot buttered popcorn, and children in pajamas romped on the playground before falling asleep in the backseat of the family car while the grownups watched the second show.

A security guard patrolled the grounds, but some may remember riding in the trunk to sneak in without paying and spending more time flirting than watching the show. “I remember the movie theater but not the movies,” jokes someone reminiscing on the Edina Historical Society Facebook page.

Ted Mann built the drive-in as part of his successful chain of Minnesota theaters and sold the company in 1970 to pursue Hollywood dreams of producing films and writing TV scripts. While the France Avenue Drive-in no longer carried his name, he did famously buy Hollywood’s Grauman’s Chinese Theater and changed the name to his own.

Like most drive-ins, the France Avenue Drive-in couldn’t survive changing times. It closed in 1982 and was demolished in 1986.


For more entertaining stories from Edina’s past, check out the Edina Historical Society blog at edinahistorical