Admiral Twin rebuilding progress indicates 2012 re-opening
BY MICHAEL SMITH World Scene Writer
Sunday, February 19, 2012
2/19/12 at 3:46 AM
When the Admiral Twin Drive-in's all-wood, nine-story screen tower went up in flames, many Tulsans' memories went with it.
Then people rallied and raised money. They learned the owner would rebuild the 1951-constructed icon. Then they waited.
The waiting continues after 18 months, but people can finally see visible signs of progress. Anyone driving on Interstate 244 in the past month has likely noticed the steel beams - no wood this time around - climbing high into the sky north of the highway.
It may not look like much, but people can see themselves returning this year to the Admiral Twin, perhaps as the second or third generation in their family to watch movies outdoors.
"Things are starting to pick up because the concrete block building that will house the new concession stand and the restrooms is about 90 percent up, and the steel for the tower is maybe 20 percent done," owner Blake Smith said. "Continue to pray for good weather, and we'll have our drive-in back open sooner rather than later."
Smith has been working behind the scenes since the tower caught fire Sept. 3, 2010, when it crumbled like 60-year-old kindling, to make the rebuilding happen.
Getting a $400,000 bank loan and running new electrical and plumbing lines were vital first steps.
The biggest catalyst may still have been the campaign to "Save the Admiral Twin," which found online support and fundraising dollars from the public - more than $30,000 - that showed Smith and others the people's passion for resurrecting the landmark.
So Smith understands that a buzz is building from passers-by seeing construction of the replacement for the old screens - the two largest movie screens in the Southwest.
"We'll be open in 2012. Everybody wants a timeline, but I'm not going to give one," said Smith, who's projected earlier dates for re-opening before, only to see everything from zoning issues to safety code concerns delay the process.
"I'll say this: We're not talking about re-opening in fall. It would have to snow every day from now until then for that to happen. But then, with my luck," he said with a chuckle. "Hey, we'll have a season (of movies) this year at the drive-in."
A close-up inspection of the screen tower shows steel ascending eight stories into the sky (the new screen will be 10 feet shorter but the same width). On the ground on the west side of the tower, a crew is assembling the enormous modular metal panels that will eventually be locked into place to form the screens of the double-sided tower.
The tower virtually straddles a new concrete building, still with no doors or a roof. Smith walks around pointing and talking, visualizing the large round concession stand where guests will line up for sodas and candy. Then he walks to an area that will lead to the restrooms, which will have heat and air conditioning available for the first time in the drive-in's history.
For 60 years, Admiral Twin visitors watching movies on the west side of the drive-in went to the aging concession stand and drafty bathrooms on their side, while those catching an eastside double-feature went to their similarly ancient little building.
Now people from both sides will meet in the middle, at a centralized concession/restroom area immediately below the screen.
"This will be the biggest improvement to the drive-in that people will see," said Smith of the modern conveniences, "outside of their being able to pay with a credit card for the first time."
Credit card machines. That's how modern the new Admiral Twin Drive-in will be - coming in 2012.
Original Print Headline: Admiral Twin seen rising back into the sky
Michael Smith 918-581-8479
Blake Smith, owner of the Admiral Twin, stands near the entrance of the drive-in that burned down but is now being rebuilt. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World
Owner Blake Smith won't commit to a firm timeline for when the Admiral Twin will re-open. "We'll be open in 2012," Smith said. "... We're not talking about re-opening in fall. It would have to snow every day from now until then for that to happen." CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World
Blake Smith walks through the new concession area of the drive-in. Instead of separate amenities for each side of the drive-in, there will be a centralized concession/restroom area immediately below the screens. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World
The new screen at the Admiral Twin will be 10 feet shorter but the same width as the old one. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World