For 59 years, the Admiral Twin Drive-In stood as an iconic feature in the eastside cityscape. But the skyline changed in a Tulsa minute when the Twin caught fire and was destroyed on the afternoon of Sept. 9. Now, efforts are underway to raise funds and rebuild a Tulsa landmark.
When the Twin was destroyed, all was lost. The old wooden structure was uninsured, and nothing could be done to save it. But by the end of the day, Facebook had come to life with groups already organizing benefits to save the Admiral Twin.
It was only a matter of time before one of these benefits became the "official" fundraising effort of the drive-in, and not only does the Oct. 16 event fill that void, it marks the first event at the Twin since the fire. With a dazzling musical lineup including acts such as Caroline's Spine, Admiral Twin, Red Dirt Rangers, RadioRadio and Chloe Johns, the event is shaping up as a memorable tribute and fitting fundraiser.
The response and outpouring of support -- and money -- has been substantial -- more than $24,000 has already been raised through benefits and donations.
"It's been humbling," Twin co-owner Blake Smith said of the community's response. "It's been overwhelming. I can't really put it into words."
The amount already raised is a start, but it will take more than that.
In order to rebuild the Twin in the most basic way, it will cost $250,000. If sufficient funds are not raised at the benefit concert, additional fundraisers will be held. In the event that it becomes unfeasible to acquire the funds needed to rebuild, the owners of the Twin will donate the funds to local charities.
Smith said he has selected One Architecture and Shelby Navarro to design the new Admiral Twin.
Navarro said he was thrilled with the idea.
"This is an incredible project to me," Navarro said. "I've always loved the shape and form of the structure as an architect."
Navarro said the goal for the project is to keep the new screen, which will be constructed of steel rather than wood, looking as close to the original as possible, with a few tweaks and updates.
While there is a master plan for the whole facility, the screen is the most important piece to construct.
"The screen is the main element, and keeping a nice, powerful piece, an iconic piece that was there (is important)," Navarro said. "We want to make sure that it's still iconic and strong. We are looking at other things like improving the facilities in general -- the restrooms, concessions -- and adding some new things -- maybe a performance area or some bleachers or some things like that.
There are lots of little things we're looking at -- better ways to circulate through the spaces, better ways to have the ticket booths operate and more security items.
"There are a lot of things we're looking at. All of them would be fantastic to have, but we have our priority list as well, and those things, as it grows and regains its popularity, those things can be added down the road. We're just trying to keep it where it can get going and maintain its momentum and continue to grow."
Navarro said no construction start date has been set, and funding is the most important part of the equation right now.
"Right now we're just trying to get everything out there, determine with (Smith) some costing, see what kind of funding is available and work with different groups that want to help to see if there are things that will be donated," Navarro said. "We're just trying to see where we are, get everything in place that we know we could possibly want in the future and then be able to phase it in so we don't forget anything or leave anything out or build something that precludes something that we might want to do down the road."
Navarro said he's looked in various places for inspiration when coming up with a plan for the new Admiral Twin -- he's even watched The Outsiders, which features scenes at the drive-in. But he said it's difficult to find another drive-in that matches the visibility of the Twin, let alone find many drive-ins still in existence.
According to the United Drive-In Theatre Owners Association, there are only 374 drive-ins still operation in the U.S. Pennsylvania has 33 theaters, the most of any state, while Delaware, Hawaii and Louisiana do not have a single drive-in. Oklahoma currently has five theaters. Drive-ins are also active in Australia, Brazil, Canada and India.
"Drive-ins are a little more rare," he said. "We've researched several of them. We haven't found one that has as powerful a structure or as visible a structure as this one. Usually, you drive up and you see the back of the screen or the front of the screen, but double-screen drive-ins are not all that common, so this is kind of a unique thing, which just makes it even better.
"But we've been looking at different drive-ins and the way they do their screens, getting into the nuts and bolts of things like if we have to clean a screen or replace a portion of the screen, how do we do that? How do we keep it stable and flat for the long term? We're just looking at things that reduce maintenance and would make it a stronger facility. But there aren't that many that are like this one, that are that visible."
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