I See Movies for Free blog: What's your dream double-feature?
It's time to load up the car, find the perfect parking spot and tune in for a double-feature: The Admiral Twin Drive-In resumes showing movies next week.
The iconic drive-in, a 60-year institution north of Interstate 244 and immortalized in the film version of Tulsa author S.E. Hinton's "The Outsiders," went up in flames in September 2010 when the all-wood, nine-story, double-sided screen tower burned to the ground.
On June 15, the Admiral Twin revives movie-watching under the stars, following new construction that includes two new screens made of modular metal panels - no wood this time - as well as new rest rooms (air-conditioned for the first time) and a new concession stand.
There are new electrical lines, new plumbing and more, and it came at a price of more than $700,000, said Blake Smith, who co-owns the drive-in with Steve Peace.
The more than $30,000 raised by fans of the "Save the Admiral Twin" effort immediately following the fire made a vital impression on bankers who financed the project, Smith said.
"More than the figure itself, that spirit really showed the (bankers) the 'want' from the community for this to come back to life, and that was priceless," he said. "It made the drive-in look viable when building a drive-in is hardly the most practical business model these days."
Smith announced the Admiral Twin's opening date on Wednesday, the 79th anniversary of the first drive-in opening in New Jersey in 1933. Drive-ins reached the height of their popularity in the 1950s, when more than 4,000 were operating in the United States. Today that number is fewer than 400, figures show.
The Admiral Twin opened in 1951 as The Modernaire with one screen, then changed its name the following year with the addition of a second screen. The destructive fire occurred on the final weekend of the drive-in's 60th season.
The 11th-hour work to be done to open the drive-in next week is considerable - some concession stand equipment has yet to arrive, and new 35 mm projectors promising brighter images are expected on Monday.
Smith refers to June 15 as the start of a "soft opening," with a grand-opening ceremony probably a couple of weeks away.
"We're excited, and we know people have high expectations, and we may be working out a few kinks," he said, "but we need to get open, for the sake of running the business and for the community."
Architect Shelby Navarro of Tulsa's ONE Architecture, who donated his services in designing the steel-paneled, open-ended screen tower that looms above the new concessions area and restrooms, marvels at the finished product.
"This is definitely not going to burn down. This structure is going to be around for a long time. I'm just so pleased that it offers that same nice form in the skyline," said Navarro, who grew up in Verdigris and as a child always knew his location in Tulsa when he saw the landmark.
"When it burned down, there were so many people at the gate, lamenting the memories that were made there, and I made my own memories there."
Future generations can create new drive-in memories beginning next weekend, when movies like "The Avengers" and "Rock of Ages" will be beamed onto the largest movie screens in the Southwest.
The price for a double-feature: $7 for adults, or as Smith puts it, "the best deal in town."
"I know we'll have a lot of people out here next week, and I hope they keep coming for this very different experience that the multiplex can never produce," he said.
"Those cars lining up, the women who come out with their hair in rollers, the people who drive up with a couch in the bed of their pickup - that's real Americana. It's a real family experience, and it's important to Tulsa."
Smith said the drive-in's season will depend on the weather. As a businessman, he's hoping to extend the season to Thanksgiving, if not longer.
"Wouldn't it be great if the weather were mild and we just had to close for January or February before reopening?" he asked.
Most Tulsans would answer in the affirmative.
ADMIRAL TWIN DRIVE-IN OPENS JUNE 15
7355 E. Easton St.
Friday, June 15, with entrances open by 7 p.m. and movies beginning by about 9 p.m.
Double-features of "Rock of Ages" and "Men in Black III" on one side; "The Avengers" and "Snow White and the Huntsman" on the other side.
Double-features are $7 for those 12 and older, $3 for ages 3-11, free for age 2 and younger; cash and credit cards accepted.
New concession stand includes entree items such as pizza and hamburgers for the first time; inflatables available for children on opening night.
Michael Smith 918-581-8479
Original Print Headline: Admiral Twin, the sequel
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