I feel like I was cheated. My childhood cheated. While my fellow Tulsans have enjoyed piling into the car with blankets, snacks, and friends to see a double feature for more than 50 years, I've been busy being me in a world devoid of such entertainment. As a teenager, I never went to a drive-in for a little hanky panky with a girlfriend. Never did I consume a couple of Zimas in the drive-in bathroom with some of my older friends. No tomfoolery was ever had at such a venue.
How could I have gone this long without seeing a drive-in movie? How could I have not known that for the price of one ticket I was permitted to see two movies? After all, it's perfectly legal. "What's wrong with you, Isaac?"
I can say that I have seen a double feature before. Maybe I snuck into the second movie having only paid for the first. Maybe it was earlier this year. On a rainy Saturday afternoon. Maybe I'd never done it before and I got a wild hair...because I thought I was missing out on something in life. Maybe not.
Either way, if you pay to get into Admiral Twin, you get two movies. You don't have to stress about a 17-year-old manager asking, "May I see your ticket for this movie?" Or, "aren't you a little old to be sneaking into movies?" Really? Who outgrows that? How do you think Cinema writer Cory Cheney is reviewing two a week?
Admiral Twin, Tulsa's only drive-in theatre, opened in 1951 originally as Modern Aire, but shortly thereafter was renamed to mirror the addition of a second screen. Unlike many drive-ins in the United States, the Twin has survived in an age when many have failed. In 1960, there were over 5,000 such theaters in the U.S. Today that number has dipped to right around 400.
Admiral Twin, located at 7355 East Easton (one block north of I-244 between Sheridan and Memorial), is standing strong as one of those 400.
For me, my first drive-in was on a Sunday night, only 10 hours after hurricane-like weather passed through Tulsa and knocked out my power. Even with it being an off night and with the events of the day, there were still at least a hundred cars on my side of the drive-in. Both sides of the theatre will hold between 1,200 and 1,500 cars. If you're one of those cars, make sure you have an FM radio so you can hear what's presented on the big screen.
I saw the last 20 minutes of the latest Indiana Jones movie and all of Iron Man. As I alluded to earlier, I didn't know I got that double feature with one ticket. I'm kicking myself about that one. Burning time at home just doesn't compare to seeing Mr. Harrison Ford. The man can act!
The drive-in might be better suited for Baby Mama or something with a little less action and fewer special effects, but that wasn't an option. I only missed a handful of details in Iron Man when Robert Downey, Jr. was held prisoner in a cave. That was difficult to make out on the drive-in's concrete screen on a relatively bright night.
Speaking of making out...The difficulty viewing the movie during the cave scenes gave me a chance to make up for all the necking I'd missed out on in my teenage years having never been to a drive-in. There was no missing my kissing window this time. What can I say, I'm a romantic. The moonlight combined with the headlights of the people behind my girlfriend and me made for perfect lighting. It set the mood. Thank you, Dodge Neon with the "Fred 08" sticker. You're a life saver!
Before coming to Tulsa, I had never lived close to a drive-in movie theatre. As a child, I always wanted to cram into the Toyota Corolla with every person I knew to see a movie. It sounded like a blast, but I never had the opportunity. My parents are thankful of that, although they may have never known it. I can only imagine the list of people I would have presented to my mother. "Mom, but I want Jonathan, John, Chris, Erin, Tim, Tim's sisters and Kevin to go with us. Please, mom! They want to see Willow, too." I wouldn't have dreamed of asking my dad.
At $7 per adult ($2 for children 5 to 11 years old), a patron can save a little change on the two movies, relax in their own seat and bring a bucket of fried chicken to assist in the overall experience. Greasy fried chicken hands always add a little something special to any and all of life's experiences. "Just wipe 'em on the bottom of the seat, son."
If you disagree, bring your snack of choice or, better yet, check out the concession stand. It's got everything you'd expect to find at an indoor theatre for a fraction of the cost. And, this is largely what keeps the theatre up and running. No matter how good a job I do on the popcorn at home, it doesn't taste like the theater popcorn.
Many folks had their own lawn chairs or were relaxing in the back of a pickup. I hadn't even considered this. I thought I'd roll down the windows and recline a little in my seats with a bag of pretzels. I learned from my experience. Next time I'll get there for the first show and bring some chairs and take the snacking a little more seriously. I also won't be so nervous having random people walking up to the car. "Hey, what does this guy want? A knuckle sandwich!" My girlfriend would sigh, "No, he's only going back to the Neon, sweetheart." Oh yes, the Neon, I thought. I should thank that guy for setting the mood earlier, I continued. Nah, Iron Man is getting ready to fly around a bit. I can't miss that.
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