Admiral Twin Drive-In screens burned to ground

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The Admiral Twin theater, a Tulsa icon that was celebrating its 60th season this year and our city's last surviving drive-in movie theater, was destroyed by fire today. The wooden structure that supported the twin screens caught fire and burned to the ground. According to news reports, the wooden screen structure was uninsurable, but there's hope of raising enough money to rebuild.

A Facebook page has been created to rally support for the Admiral Twin. One commenter on that page suggests that the stars of the movie The Outsiders, which used the theater as a location, ought to be approached to see if they would be willing to help.

I hope it is rebuilt. I remember seeing my first PG movie there -- Young Frankenstein -- making myself nauseous by getting that free refill on the 32 oz 7up, and I remember Mom saying something to Dad about the risque jokes going over my head. We've taken our kids to the Admiral Twin, too.

But there are several factors working against reconstruction. It's valuable, highly visible property fronting an interstate highway, although it's not easy to reach because of the weird left-hand exits at Sheridan and Memorial. You could probably meet payroll and cover expenses with a paid-for facility, but reconstruction was not in the business plan.

And how much will it cost to rebuild to modern standards? I don't know what codes apply to a drive-in theater screen -- maybe similar to outdoor signs? it wouldn't need to be safe for human occupation -- but I imagine you couldn't simply rebuild what was there. I don't have a map handy, but I suspect the Admiral Twin was outside the city limits when it was built in 1951.

There's another theater that may be on the verge of demolition. The old Park Lane Theater north of 51st and Sheridan is surrounded by a fence, the porte cochere has been demolished, the first floor windows are covered in plywood, and there's an Ark Wrecking dumpster out front. The theater was twinned sometime in the 1980s, served as a comedy club and venue for live theater, and more recently has been home to a business school.

The Admiral Twin was the last Tulsa theater from my childhood and youth still operating. The Continental, Will Rogers, Brook, Delman, Park Lane, Spectrum, Forum, Fox, Fontana, Annex 3/7, Southroads, Plaza 3, Village, Eleventh Street Drive In, 51 Drive In, Boman Twin, Williams Center, Woodland Hills -- all closed, many of them demolished. (The Circle is an ambiguous case -- the theater where I saw The Phantom Tollbooth is an empty shell, but there are plans to rebuild, and the Circle 2 is open next door.)

MORE: Agent Bedhead, a Tulsan who is senior film critic for the entertainment website Pajiba, has an entry about the Admiral Twin fire and about the attempt of movie PR weasels -- for the movie showing at the theater the night before the fire -- to capitalize on the tragedy. She also has some speculation on the cause and a clip from The Outsiders that highlights the drive-in in better days.

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2 Comments

I wonder how many that signed up on Facebook cared so much to go there in the past year? Its a dinosaur and needs to be given a peaceful death. I fear all this "resurrection" will only lead to tax dollars to help keep it open. Please STAY AWAY!!!!

Calm down, James! No one is talking about tax dollars to keep it open. People are talking about private donations to rebuild.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on September 3, 2010 8:12 PM.

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