Admiral Twin to rise again this summer
BY MICHAEL SMITH World Scene Writer
Friday, March 04, 2011
3/04/11 at 7:36 AM
Continuing Coverage: Read more about the Admiral Twin, watch videos and more.
The Admiral Twin Drive-in, a Tulsa landmark that saw its giant, all-wood screen burn to the ground six months ago, is expected to reopen this summer, one of the owners said Thursday.
Donations of more than $30,000 poured in to a "Save the Admiral Twin" fund after the Sept. 3 blaze that razed the nine-story screen. Co-owner Blake Smith said those donations, in addition to his own funding, will go toward rebuilding.
"I believe we have a commitment on a (Small Business Administration) loan and refinancing of my original mortgage, but I haven't got it signed just yet," Smith said. "But I think I can say that we're right to the point of rebuilding."
The new structure would be eight stories and made out of steel, as opposed to the nine-story wood structure built when the drive-in opened in 1951 as the Modernaire at 7355 E. Easton Ave.
The Tulsa institution was renamed the Admiral Twin the following year with the addition of a second screen. There will again be twin screens for viewing, Smith said.
"The plan is to begin rebuilding this spring, and we'd love to reopen by July 4," Smith said, estimating that once construction on the tower begins, it should be completed in 60 to 90 days. Local architect Shelby Navarro, who donated his services, explored how to construct the screens out of something solid and low maintenance - and more fire-resistant.
The cost of rebuilding is estimated to be about $300,000 - maybe $250,000 for the tower alone - including some repairs to plumbing, the electrical system and the damaged box office, Smith said. He'll have to reopen with the old concession stand and bathrooms "just so we can make this season work out," but he wants to rebuild those in the future.
A grass-roots effort of collecting donations to rebuild the Admiral Twin began before firefighters could douse the blaze. This would eventually range from children collecting money in buckets to the sale of "Save the Admiral Twin" T-shirts to a concert at the site. The drive-in's Facebook page now numbers almost 37,000 fans.
Without the community response to the loss, Smith said he isn't sure the drive-in would be reopening. He can recall his doubts about being able to "borrow money for a drive-in theater, a concept that time had passed by long ago."
"But the people pretty much told us what we needed to do, and it even helped influence the bankers," Smith said. "Our bankers are local. They live here, and that made it easier for us."
A compelling argument for rebuilding came in the three weekends after the fire, when Smith and co-owner Steve Peace and their employees spent time at the drive-in cleaning up - and visiting with members of the public who stopped by, looking to reminisce about 60 years of outdoor cinema.
"People just kept coming by, telling us about coming out here, and their parents and their grandparents coming out here," Smith said. "They bought out the rest of our sodas and chips and candy, and they told us their stories, and we told them our stories.
"Before the fire, we didn't know what people thought about the Admiral Twin," he said, "but I have been absolutely humbled by the warmth and generosity of the people of Tulsa."
Admiral Twin by the numbers
1951: The year the drive-in
opened as The Modernaire,
with a single screen;
the next year, the second
screen was added and the
name was changed.
26: Acres of land on
which the drive-in sits at
7355 E. Easton St., one
block north of I-244 between
Sheridan Road and
1,500: Number of cars
owner Blake Smith says
he can easily fit inside the
drive-in’s east and west
1982: The year in which
Francis Ford Coppola
filmed part of the movie
“The Outsiders,” based on
Tulsan S.E. Hinton’s novel,
at the drive-in.
60: The 2010 season
was the 60th anniversary
of the Admiral Twin, which
burned to the ground Sept.
3, one week before the
drive-in was to close for the
Original Print Headline: Admiral Twin plans to reopen this summer
Michael Smith 581-8479
Blake Smith, owner of the Admiral Twin Drive-in theater in Tulsa, stands outside the main entrance. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World file