The History of Melody

There’s something so fundamentally American about a drive-in movie theater. Picture convertibles, a car-load of kids, fragrant popcorn, muscle cars, leather jackets and poodle skirts. Remember Hitchcock, Eastwood, Spielberg, Howard, and how all of the iconic directors made the most memorable films.

The Melody Cruise Drive-in Theater is an icon and a piece of Clark County History. A neighbor recalled the theater in its glory as “(it was) a summer staple to see the lights of the theater twinkle at night”.  Their slogan was Enjoy the Stars… Under the Stars.

Clark County’s first drive-in theatre, Melody Cruise-In, opened July 2, 1955 at a site a mile and a half east of Springfield on U.S. 40. The drive-in initially had a 500-car capacity, which was expanded in later years with space for 1000 cars.

Melody Cruise was a Chakeres Family Theater. Chakeres Theatres are part of a chain that was started more than 120 years ago by a Greek immigrant named Phil Chakeres (1885-1971) who was a native of Tripoli, Greece.  Phil, the youngest of three brothers, immigrated to America at the age of 15.  His brothers, Harry (1882-1958) and Louis (1884-1968), joined him in Springfield, and opened a lunchroom on North Fountain Avenue, and a restaurant at Main and Center.

A few years later, they founded the Chakeres Amusement Company and opened The Princess theater at 17 West Main Street in 1911. It was a 150 seat theater that operated for over forty years.

Chakeres was also responsible for the name Fairborn, given to the twin cities Fairfield and Osborn that sat next to one another in Greene County. In 1948, he built a new theater on Broadstreet, using architects Lioyd Zeller and Herman Hunter from Springfield. Because he wanted the two-screen theater to serve both Fairfield and Osborn, he named it, “Fairborn.” It is now on the National Registry of Historic Places.

Michael Chakeres  (1912 – 2002) was the youngest of Harry and Vasiliki’s six children, who was named President of Chakeres Theaters Inc., after his Uncle Phil’s death in 1971. He began his career at 15 serving popcorn in his father Harry’s theaters.  He served in the United States Air Force during WWII, and returned to the family business after the war. He served on the boards of NATO and Foundation of Motion Picture Pioneers. In 1976, he was named Chairman of the Board of Chakeres Theaters in 1976.

At the pinnacle of their success, the family operated more than 90 screens throughout Ohio.