Admiral Twin Drive-in opens this weekend, plans digital conversion in coming months
BY MICHAEL SMITH World Scene Writer
Friday, March 01, 2013
3/01/13 at 7:09 AM
The Admiral Twin Drive-in opens for 2013 this weekend, with images flickering to life on the giant double-screen tower from 35mm prints. The picture show will also continue this fall, when Hollywood stops shipping films on film to theaters.
The drive-in is going digital by May.
The reality for any theater not converting to digital by later this year - and industry reports show that 90 percent of America's 364 remaining drive-ins have yet to do so - is to face closing.
Admiral Twin co-owner Blake Smith didn't work to bring the Admiral Twin back to life last year following a devastating fire only to see it close anytime soon. He'll make the conversion - at costs estimated at about $70,000 per screen.
"We had a great year last year, with people coming back to the drive-in, and basically the money that we made last year will go toward going digital," Smith said. "The goal is to have it up and running by May 3, when 'Iron Man 3' opens."
When the drive-in reopened post-reconstruction last June, cars waited in line for hours as Tulsans hoped to be among the first to return to the 62-year-old icon.
Smith knows better than to expect a June-sized crowd when he opens the gates on Friday; he can't offer June-quality weather.
Friday and Saturday are both forecast with high temperatures in the low 40s, with temperatures dipping into the 30s soon after the sun goes down. The following weekend, highs are expected to rebound into the mid-50s.
He kept the drive-in open until Dec. 1 last year before closing for the winter. If he does that again, the drive-in will be open for nine months in 2013 - which would be the Admiral Twin's longest season in decades.
"Hey, bring your blankets this Friday, and we'll be serving coffee and hot chocolate," Smith said with a chuckle. "I'll be bundled up in the box-office hoping that somebody will show up, standing in there with my space heater.
"All of the big movies come out during the summer, when it's 100 degrees, and I've had a lot of people tell me that spring and fall are the best times to go to the drive-in. I hope those folks come out to see us."
The plan is to open Friday and Saturday night, with Sundays added maybe sometime in April and certainly by early May (and maybe a Sunday during spring break later this month, Smith said).
Look for a full-week schedule through the summer, he said, and more special events this year. For example: He's planning on some Thursday nights this summer that will find food truck vendors on-site and live bands playing before the movies begin.
"I know a lot of people who didn't make it out last year, because so many have told me they wish they had and definitely will this year, so we're going to have some fun things going on out there, especially for our family crowds," Smith said.
Swap meets, car shows and more - he's considering a number of options for the Admiral Twin, which was one of the more than 4,000 drive-ins open across the country in the late 1950s.
About 75 percent of those had closed by the late 1980s, and the numbers have continued to dwindle. Now they face the digital revolution.
"I really didn't know the number of drive-ins was as little as 364 now," said Smith, who knows his share of fellow owners. "I know that there are some who aren't going to (pay for digital conversion), because it doesn't make economic sense for them. But there's been a little resurgence in drive-ins in the last couple of years, so hopefully we might only lose about 25 percent of those drive-ins.
"I don't know that it's the death knell for drive-ins, because I know some have been doing very well. And then there's the whole labor-of-love thing for the drive-ins with their owners.
"For us, it's a little of both: We've got something good going here, and we love the drive-in."
Admiral Twin Drive-in checklistYou're getting ready to watch a double-feature. You may want to arrive early to eat before it gets dark. Then there's getting settled in for maximum comfort. Attending the Admiral Twin Drive-in can mean a five-hour commitment; patrons should pack accordingly.
- Blankets (mandatory for cool nights) and pillows
- FM stereo/boom box - You now tune in to separate FM stations for movie sound, depending on the side you enter; the boom box is for that lawn chair/back-of-the-pickup audio experience.
- Lawn chairs, umbrella and flashlight
- Bottle opener and trash sack
- Paper towels and/or wipes - Wet wipes are invaluable at the drive-in, whether following a trip to the rest room or when eating concession stand popcorn and hot dogs.
- Frisbees, footballs, electronic gadgets with headphones - to keep the kids happy
Admiral Twin Drive-In
Where: 7355 E. Easton St., just north of I-244 between Sheridan Road and Memorial Drive.
When: Friday and Saturday nights for now; Gates open at 6:40 p.m. Friday-Saturday, with the west side of the drive-in showing a double-feature of "Jack the Giant Slayer" (7:10 p.m.) followed by "Beautiful Creatures" (9:10 p.m.) and the east side showing "Safe Haven" (7 p.m.) followed by "Warm Bodies" (9 p.m.).
Tickets: $7 for adults, $3 for kids ages 3-11, and free for ages 2 and younger.
Original Print Headline: Admiral Twin opens for season this weekend
Michael Smith 918-581-8479
Admiral Twin Drive-in owner Blake Smith said he hopes to convert to digital projection by the May 3 release of "Iron Man 3." JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World
A billboard advertises the movies that will open the 2013 season at the Admiral Twin Drive-in, which reopens for the season Friday. JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World