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Mr. and Mrs. Marshall Sanguinet launched the predecessor to the Yucca with Alamogordo’s first drive-in, the Starlite Outdoor Theatre on December 9, 1949. The Starlite was located on Highway 70 two miles southwest of the city. In 1952, Sanguinet would begin to build the Yucca north of the city but — apparently — water hook-up was challenging and the theatre would construction, two miles north of the city also on Highway 70 / Highway 54, was halted. During that prolonged process, Sanguinet would sell out to Theatre Enterprises Inc. Circuit which operated the Mesa and White Sands theatres
The ozoner finally launched with a 457-car capacity and its 62x44' screen was the largest in southern New Mexico. Cliff Keim managed both the Yucca and Starlite as well as the White Sands and Mesa though now al in the Frontier Theatres Circuit Inc.’s portfolio. Grace Methodist Church began drive-in services in 1954 at the Yucca.
Opened as the Family Drive-In by Fred Belcher in May of 1951. It advertised only as the Family Drive-In during its run.
The Sky-Line Drive-In Theatre launched May 26, 1949 just two miles south of the Clifty Falls State Park northern-most entrance. The first film was “Black Bar.” The drive-in’s original configuration of the drive-in had spaces for 600 cars on an 8.5 acre site with its screen tower 53' high and a picture of 30'x40'. The concession speciality was its pronto pups.
Technically: It’s the Sky-Line and not the Skyline
According to the local newspaper, Theatair was architected by G.H. Richardson & Associate of Jeffersonville and built by Ehirnger Construction in 1947. The April 15, 1947 grand opening was pushed back by Theater Enterprizes Inc. and General Manager Bob Harned due to lack of a projection lens as well as torrential rain. The steel screen tower contained its concession stand and banquet hall. Its grand opening was in July of 1947. It was robbed twice in its first season. It closed for the season and its 1948 season was delayed by yet more torrential rain. The drive-in was said to be about 1.5 miles south of Cementville on Highway 31. In 1955, it gets new operators.
But American Films Limited turned Theatair into Theatair-X causing an uproar and a First Amendment battle. Clark County prosecutors successfully brought an obscenity charge against AFL and Theatair-X against five films in 1989. I’m assuming those were overturned on appeal. Then in a clever move in 1991, the local government decided to push for an interchange off of nearby Interstate 65 and what once was US 31 that would go directly through the Theatair. The theater successfully fought against that proposal and was able to continue operations into the 21st Century. Indecency charges in 2008, protests from an interest group called Reclaim Our Culture, a prostitution sting in 2012, citations for peepholes in 2014, and charges of indecency for customers in 2015 were just part of the standard operating procedures at the drive-in-less Theatair-X.
This theater’s history is rather challenging but it is clear that beginning as early as 1913, motion pictures are played at the multipurpose Morhaus Hall which was a local landmark in Marthasville. It also features speeches, dances, and concerts. It was demolished in 1966. Until 1925, another multipurpose hall called Mittler’s Hall is open and also features dances, concerts and events. That facility appears to be what this entry’s origin is on Depot Street.
Marthasville’s William T. Zimmerman who had shown moving pictures at the halls opened a regular movie house in nearby Warrenton. On October 17, 1925, he launches the New Marthasville Theater bringing regular moving pictures to what I’d assume was Mittler’s Hall as the hall is no longer mentioned. The theatre closes and the equipment is sold. But on May 12, 1928, the theatre comes back as the Morhaus Brothers rebrand the space as the Morhaus Theatre relaunching on May 12, 1928 with “The Cheerful Fraud.” It converts to talking pictures in 1930 opening with the film “Flight” on May 17, 1930. As noted, the theatre continues until August 11, 1933 when ads disappear. In 1937, the theatre makes a comeback known once again as the Marthasville Theatre. When that fails, it appears to end the life of this property as a CinemaTreasure. Movies are regularly shown at the aforementioned Morhaus Hall during the 1940s.
The Sunset Drive-In Theatre was built in August 1952 and opened on May 29, 19 1953 with the film “The Lion and the Horse” on its 50 foot screen. RCA sound and Simplex projection were among the highlights. Fireworks and a horseshoe pitching contest allowed winners to get free passes. The kids had it good with pony rides and a playground. The 280-car drive-in launched for the Commonwealth Theatres Circuit which held on to the property closing it after a thirty-year lease expired.
On September 7, 1925, the New Warrington Theatre launched with “The Border Region.” On September 2, 1932, the New Warrington was rebranded as the Vita Theatre after getting a five-week makeover including better sound system. “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm” was the Vita’s first film. By 1965, the Vita was the winter theatre for the area and the Moto-Vu was the summertime spot.
Veteran Warrenton, Missouri movie-man William Zimmerman launched the Moto-Vu Drive-In Theatre on August 17, 1950. “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” opened the drive-in.
First film was Douglas Fairbanks' “His Picture in the Papers” on April 19, 1916 and final more than 50 years later was “Wait Until Dark” on February 1, 1968. That’s the day fire broke out on the third floor of the Strand Theatre Building with the patrons safely evacuated. But that was it as just months later, the building was demolished and replaced by a Sambo’s Restaurant within the three-story Braverman Building that replaced the 52 year old Strand.
The Pastime Theatre — Fred E. Dever’s Motion Picture Palace – launched January 20, 1912 with a reported 1,670 people watching “Little Boy Blue” and “Parting of the Ways”. But Albert C. “Punch” Dunkel guided the theatre through its halcyon days with three different organs, installing radio equipment using the call letters KFBG to broadcast news — which was apparently news to the FCC which closed the station — and transitioning the Pastime to sound. Ray Lumsden (1938) followed by Fred McGee (1945) and finally Earnest Panos (1946) operated the Pastime.
Panos —on January 16, 1947 — changed the name of the theatre to the Capitol Theatre launching with “I’ll Be Seeing You” and “I Married a Witch.” The decades' old KFBG radio equipment was still under the stage of the old Pastime. Panos would try foreign language films soon thereafter but abandoned that policy. The theatre eked it out to its 50th anniversary before closing and was demolished.
Original owners closed the Urbana Autoscope at the conclusion of the 1955 season after just two years of operation. New operators Truman Bridges and Don Eagy reopened the unique ozoner for the 1957 season, the third and final season for the Autoscope.
The above reads, “The Van Buren Theatre opened in 1931. In 1940 it was renamed the Ritz Theatre.” Nothing appears to be correct in that timeline. Van Buren had three different indoor theatres. The first was the Harding Theatre opening in 1920 in a 67x105 wood framed building. One of the three operators was Henry Albert Smalley who had a profound impact on Van Buren’s development. H.A. Smalley would also create Smalley’s Motel in 1928 which would operate for nine decades, a package liquor store, a lumber yard, gravel plant and a stave mill.
The city’s first theatre was taken over by John M. Haynes who turned the Harding Theatre into the Van Buren Theatre which was also known to locals as Haynes' Theatre. It operates primarily on weekends only. The theatre is destroyed by fire on August 20, 1931 apparently never converting to sound pictures.
A second Van Buren Theatre is constructed which opens with talking pictures in 1934. On January 25, 1936, Van Buren Theatre #2 also burns to the ground with “the entire city” showing up trying in vain to save the facility. A new theater is constructed but delayed. When the foundation is being prepared, a discovery of civil war soldier body or bodies was discovered. The Ritz Theatre was supposed to have opened in October of 1936 but is delayed opening February 6, 1937. Its address appears to be 701 Main Street in Van Buren.
The theatre closed October 30, 1961 suggesting the end of a 25-year lease. The theater gets one more chance in 1964 as the short-lived home of live Ozark Mountain music. The theatre is reconverted in 1973 for other retail purposes becoming Uncle Dudley’s and then the Craft Corner. And Mr. Smalley died in 1969 with his obituary mentioning his prominence including getting moving pictures to Van Buren. Fortunately, the community would be served by the 21 Drive-In Theatre as the ozoner made the digital conversion still surviving into — as the time of this writing — the mid 2010s.
Opened July 17, 1952.
In a space architected by Charles Herbert and Associates, Prestige Jewelers and Distributors was the focal point of a shopping center concept known initially as the Daniels Building and then very briefly as the Prestige Mall. Located next to Merle Hay Mall just beyond its Sears store, Davis Theatres launched the Forum IV Theatres on December 18, 1974 with “Godfather II” and “The Gambler.” The lobby was an ancient Roman concept and signage above the doors used roman numerals and the entries has statues and pillars
But in the porno chic era, Davis was known for its XXX theatres and used the Forum IV for the X titles finding success in 1975. In June of 1975, three of the titles at the Forum IV were “The Happy Hooker,” “The Secret of the Sacred Forest,” and “If You Don’t Stop It, I’ll Go Blind.” And on the other screen — with the Plaza down the way with its giant 60' screen and 700 seat auditorium booked with “Benji” — the Forum had as its fourth offering the Steven Spielberg film, “Jaws.” And with it, the Forum got its traction as the film stayed more than six months all the way to Christmas that year and Davis used the Forum to book mainstream films there. But the XXX fare continued at other theaters and the publicly-held Davis was under the mircoscope for its presentations as well as being in a more competitive multiplex environment that it told stockholders it wasn’t equipped to compete in. So it sold out its theatrical operation in 1976 to the Dubinsky Brothers Circuit.
The Forum lost a lot of its dated kitschy feel in a redesign in the 1980s. And though closure is stated above as being in the early 1990s which may be true, I believe the theatre had a 25-year lease which it made it to the end of. (If it closed in the early 1990s, my apologies.) But I believe the theatre was the first to be equipped with DTS sound in Des Moines and — again — it was Spielberg packing the Forum’s largest screen with the opus “Jurassic Park” in 1993 which did monster business for the theatre with the sound leaking to the neighboring screen. Carmike Theatres became the last operator of the theatre and the Forum IV is one of three theatres in and American with Disabilities Act lawsuit against the chain along with the River Hills Twin and the Sierra 3. Rather than retrofit the theatre which was at and of lease, the Forum IV was closed in June of 1998. The theatre was gutted and retrofitted for other retail purposes.
The Melody Drive-In opened July 22, 1949 as a single-screen 500-car screen operated by G.V. Banta, T. Vitello and J. Richard Hand. To celebrate the showing of “The Music Man,” star Forrest Tucker made a two-day personal appearance on Jul 17-18, 1959. The Drive-In continued into the digital projection era.
The 450-seat Franklin Theatre opened at 400 S. Main Street on January 16, 1913 showing motion pictures and operated by John Franklin. John T. White took on the Franklin Building housing the theater, hotel, and restaurant switching the name in September of 1916 to the Savoy Building including the Savoy Theatre. The theatre was closed for a month in July of 1920 for remodeling. In early May of 1928, the Savoy Building was sold and on May 12, 1928, the Savoy Theatre had its final shows likely reaching the end of a 15-year lease. The theatre was gutted and became a Chevy dealer and ends this cinema treasure’s run as Parmyra was getting a newly-created theater nearby. The Savoy Building would also house Lewis Brothers Funeral Home — the second undertaker in the premises — taking over the hotel portion. In the 1970s, the building was razed and became the Palmyra State Bank.
The Pal Theatre launched on May 9, 1928 at 305 S. Main Street with live shows and then had its first motion pictures taking over the Savoy’s bookings just days later. It was housed in the former Best Brothers' Hardware Company building and converted for use as the Pal. In February of 1930, E.H. Wiesner took on the Pal equipping it with sound using Vitaphone. In 1932, James H. “Oscar” Wesley purchased the theater closing it for three months to make improvements including Synchrofilm to replace disc-based sound. He kept the theater until 1951 when Frank Reller of Reller Theatres took on the Pal.
The Pal and the Franklin/Savoy have no connection in terms of their building or address but the Pal did become Palmyra’s Theatre taking over the Savoy’s bookings.
Note: Previous name listed as Savoy Theatre is in error.
Began in July of 1947 as the Sunset Park Auto Theatre. Major improvements led to a grand re-opening as the New Sunset Park Auto Theatre August 24, 1948. In 1950, the theatre changed to its final name of Sunset Drive-In Theater.
The Sunset’s 30th year proved to be its most challenging. A back tax collection issue led to the ozoner failing to get a license to operate in April of 1977. Once that was resolved in early May, the Sunset was back in business. But playing X-rated and R-Rated fare at despite promises to have at least one family feature a month, the Sunset was not a beloved 30-year old member of the community. In December of 1977, that came to a head when the country district attorney ordered troopers to seize the films, “Hot Shots” and “The Double Exposure of Holly” as obscene.
The theater would soldier on, close standing vacant for a period, and then the drive-in land owner would offer the Sunset for the Bill Laston Memorial Park.
E. M. Loew’s Theatre Circuit Inc. of Boston purchased land in 1954 to build the West End Drive-In, to open in late summer at a cost of $200,000 at 1501 Mauch Chunk Rd. Picketers delayed the progress and the theater opened in October of 1954 filling its 1,000 car capacity with another 200 cars accommodated in additional parking area. Allentown’s mayor Brighton C. Diefenderfer cut the ribbon along with E.M. Loew and ozoner manager John J. Scully Jr. No evidence to support late 1940s opening in aerial shots until 1954. The drive-in was demolished and as of the mid-2010s the land was occupied by three car dealers.
Opened July 1954.
Vance W. Haar secured materials from the National Production Authority (NPA) to construct a drive-in and move from traveling film projectionist to s permanent spot. The $100,000 investment was worth it as the 500-car ozoner launched June 18, 1953 with Abbott & Costello’s “Africa Screams” on the big screen. 60 years later, the drive-in was still going, was in the hands of third generation Haar’s, and had a digital conversion. “Grease” is generally the closing feature and sells out the season-ender. A long running antique market and an annual auto show are part of the drive-in’s other attractions.
The Northside Drive-In Theatre opened June 8, 1948 with spaces for 600 cars and open-air seating for another 200 patrons. The first film was “The Shocking Miss Pilgrim.” Jack Jossey and Kroger Babb were among the original operators of the Triangle Drive-In Theatres Company that launched the ozoner with Gene Lacey as season one manager. Its 42' by 31' screen was within the 48' by 48' tower.
In season two, the pair changed the corporation to the Northside Drive-In Theatre Corporation and Jack Dugan was the congenial second-season manager. Generally marketed as simply Drive-In Theatre, and after just two seasons, it was sold to Chakeres Theatres Circuit subsidiary Wilmington Theaters, Inc. The circuit would change the name to the Wilmington Drive-In Theatre for season three. The Northside Drive-In Theatre Corporation would be dissolved during that third season of operation.
The theater had six managers in just its first four seasons. But Queen, the pony, providing free pony rides and Playland installed at the base of the drive-in in opening the fifth season proved to be a winner with kids and families, alike. The theatre had live western star appearances, WLW hosted its Midwestern Hayride TV show once, dish night, fashion night, TV demonstration night, sunrise Easter services, and on it went as the theatre connected with the local audience. A turn to porno chic in the mid 1970s was met with resistance and the theatre turned back to family fare.
Chakeres would run the operation for more than 60 years to its digital conversion as the veteran theatre was still active in the mid-2010s. A truly amazing run for Ohio.
Opened in July of 1953 with both outdoor spaces and an indoor auditorium.
Launched in May of 1949 with 425 car capacity for Armand Bourque. But the theatre made news in 1969 when John Laughlin, Jr. — then manager of the Sky-Ray D-I — was the first person in the state to be charged with violating New Hampshire’s newly crafted pornography rule for showing Russ Meyer’s Vixen. Laughlin was found innocent. The theatre would run another 16 years.
The Harrisburg Drive-In was the first of two Harrisburg area drive-in theaters neither within the city limits. It was followed by the Starlite Drive-In which was closer to Eldorado and Wasson. The Harrisburg Drive-In was just a minute or two outside of the Harrisburg city limits in Pankeyville and launched May 14, 1949.
In December of 1952, the theater closed on weekdays to construct an indoor theater and changing its name very briefly to the Harrisburg Drive-In-Door Theater to try and explain the indoor/outdoor element to patrons. The owners claimed that it was the first indoor/outdoor drive-in in Illinois which may be dubious and certainly the moniker was confusing as the name was quickly reverted to Harrisburg Drive-In Theatre.
The theater showed its first 3D film on August 5, 1953 with “Side Streets of Hollywood.” It may have shown its last 3D shows on July 10, 1954 when it played a well-attended dusk-to-dawn show with 12 films including two lost 1953 anaglyph attractions from Broadway Roadshow Productions in “Bowery Scandals” and “The Cleopatra Follies.” Those who made it to the last feature got free coffee and doughnuts. The 10 cent glasses only worked on two of the features so the investment may have been less than worth it.
Locally involved, the Harrisburg D-I held benefit screenings for the Kiwanis Club, the high school band, and many others as well as sunrise services. But on August 18, 1965, after a showing of Elvis Presley’s “Tickle Me,” it appears to have ended for the Harrisburg Drive-In. August 19, 1965, the theater lists “closed” and advertisements cease. The theater was later demolished and became a farm implement dealer.
Correct date of opening was September 15, 1954 as the Jolly Roger adorned the giant curved screen that featured a 60 foot rocking pirate ship on its tower. Nick George claimed to have installed the first three-channel stereophonic sound north of the Mason-Dixon line using speakers that were invented and used in Texas drive-ins. The innovative theater would also opt for a distinctive gas-fired central heating system to keep patrons warm in the winter months. The theater lasted 36 years and is still greatly missed.