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A community landmark is back

Filed by KOSU News in Art & Life, Feature, Local News.
June 18, 2012

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The Admiral Twin is known as a Tulsa icon. The drive in with two screens reached immortal status with its appearance in the movie The Outsiders, and had been entertaining families and couples alike since 1951. So when a fire reduced the wood frame to ashes in 2010, a community mourned.

There’s something about a drive in.

It’s more than a movie. In fact, people I talked said it often didn’t matter what was on the screen, they came back over and over for the experience. Now, the Twin is back. It took some faith from Blake Smith’s bankers, but two screens tower over the wide open field in north Tulsa.

“Way worth more than that. It wasn’t the financial amount that really did it for us, it was the community showing and my bankers seeing, look 35-thousand people are on their facebook and they raised 30-thousand dollars, obviously Tulsa wants it back.”

You don’t have to search to see why he rebuilt. It’s hard to square the national trend with what I saw Friday night. Fewer than 5-hundred drive ins are still around, down from a high of 4-thousand in the late  50s. But the lines stretching miles up and down East Easton Road, just off 244, suggest these people have been clamoring for the Twin to return.

“I couldn’t tell you for sure, why drive ins are suddenly having a resurgence. I think people are kinda tired of the same old thing and this is kinda a different thing.”

They brought lawn chairs, blankets, sleeping bags, and whatever else they could get in to the Admiral Twin. And also a carefree attitude…

“What’s greater on a Friday or Saturday night than letting them run around like monkeys? They’re not going to do that at a regular movie theater without getting kicked out.”

Cherie Johnson from Claremore was set up right behind a truck just past the Twin, with her daughter Sarah and one of her sisters. They got in line at 4:45. Remember the first movie didn’t start until 9:15. Passing the time was not an issue. They talked, texted, Facebooked and whatever else. But management wasn’t pulling them out of the theater for doing any of that.

“It’s family and friends, it’s being outside, it’s throwing the Frisbee, it’s listening to music. It’s anything goes as long you’re not bothering somebody else. People get along. You can talk in your car, you can smoke in your car, you can do whatever you want in your car as long as you’re not bothering anybody else.”

Blake Smith hopes, wants, needs to believe that this will work. Talking with him, the optimism shone through every answer. You get the sense he was looking for any reason to rebuild, not the other way around.

“There was a little bit of a if you build it they will come and so far it feels like that’s going to work.

“If this is even a small portion of the indication, then we kinda had an idea it might do well again because of all the attention. We could never buy the media attention we got. So I think it’s going to be a good investment.”

So Blake, is this the quintessential summer experience?

“Yeah, I like that. In Tulsa, it is.”

As a customer, you don’t have to invest much. 7 dollars for adults, 3 for kids, and you get two movies. Friday night’s choices? Rock of Ages and Men in Black 3 on one side, or Avengers and Snow White and the Huntsmen. Whatever the decision, when the skies darkened and new projectors flickered on, summer began on a city block in Tulsa.

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