Tulsa TV Memories      

      In association with the
The American Institute of Drive-In Archeology

Tulsa TV Memories presents:    

The Admiral Twin Drive-In Theatre

Opening night ad, historical data,
and some pictures provided by
Wesley Horton
, AIDA curator

The new screen, 7/28/2012 (Photo by Mike Ransom)

The new Admiral Twin Drive-In screen on the evening of 7/28/2012  (photo by Mike Ransom)

"UHF", a movie about TV, shot in Tulsa, showing at the Admiral Twin in Tulsa, featured on a Tulsa TV web site!

The old Twin screen (original photo by Wes Horton)

6/2005: The Admiral Twin Drive-In won Hampton Inns' "hidden landmark" contest! Hampton put up $20,000 plus labor to help refurbish the Twin. Thanks to everyone who voted online. Hurray for Hampton and the Twin!

Admiral Twin Theatre (photo courtesy of Wes Horton)
Enter the Twin from a service road on the south (photo by Wes Horton)

The Admiral Twin began its life as the Modernaire...

Grand opening on Thursday, May 24, 1951

Location: N 36.1629°, W 95.8936

Name changed to Admiral Drive-in Theatre June 19, 1952.

Johnnie Lee Wills
Johnnie Lee Wills, Tulsa Stampede, 1951

Hey, check out Forrest Tucker  in the "Oh! Susanna" poster. That hat looks like the same one he wore as Sgt. O'Rourke in TV's "F Troop"!

The Tulsa Tribune May 24, 1951
Modernaire opening (courtesy of Wes Horton)

The Modernaire, later the Admiral Twin Drive-In (courtesy of Wes Horton)
I sure didn't know that the Admiral Twin started as the Modernaire until I got an email from Wes Horton of the American Institute of Drive-in Archaeology. Wes took over the first drive-in web site on the internet, "The Evil Sam's Drive-In Theatre Guide", but his host went belly-up. Much of Evil Sam's content is now included at Drive-Ins.com, one of the most comprehensive drive-in sites.

The Evil Sam (Graham) himself still has a site.

Here is more about the Modernaire at TulsaTeens.com.

The single-screen Modernaire Drive-In originally built by L. E. Snyder, then sold in 1952 to Alex Blue and H.B. Robb, Jr. They changed the name to Admiral, then added another screen, modifying this neon sign to reflect the name change.

Dated Jun 19, 1952.
Admiral Twin Theatre (courtesy of Wes Horton)

1955 Theatre lists Alex Blue and H. B. Robb Jr. As Exec.

1965 IMPA lists L. Snyder as owner, capacity as 750.

1979 IMPA, owned by West Outdoor.

1984 IMPA lists General Cinema as owner.

Here are more great pics of the Twin at Drive-Ins.com.

Three pictures of the Twin at SelectCinemas.com (the Twin's new owner).

Star Jeff Chandler can be seen in Tulsa on the Louise Bland page.

Looking west on Admiral Place

Looking west on Admiral Place. Playing at the Twin: "Sergeants 3" (1962); "The Marriage-Go-Round" (1961), written by future "Outer Limits" creator Leslie Stevens, starring Julie Newmar; "From The Terrace" (1960) with Paul Newman. Note the A&W Root Beer stand, Calvary Baptist Church (still there today), and the Thom McAn shoe store. Courtesy of the Beryl Ford Collection/Rotary Club of Tulsa

Google Street View of this location today

The same scene in 2008. "Drive" down Admiral by clicking on the arrows, and using your up/down/left/right keys.
Points of reference with the above photo: Calvary Baptist Church; the Thom McAn sign is still in use; telephone/power poles are in the same locations. The Google wide-angle lens stretches out the apparent distances.
Go west a little to find the culvert on the right; it appears to be where the Admiral Twin sign stood. You can check this by turning to the north to see the theatre standing behind I-244, which cut off the Twin from its original Admiral entrance. Go west down Admiral to 73rd E. Ave. (just before the church), turn right, and go forward through the overpass, and you will find the Twin on your right.
The Git-N-Go store (but not the sign), and the Banfield's building seen in the photo below can also be found in this Google Map. Again, distances are deceptive due to the normal/telephoto lens used by the 1962 photographer vs. the wide-angle lens on the Google car.

Looking east on Admiral Place

Looking east-southeast that same day. Git-N-Go and Banfield's Meat Market are visible. Courtesy of the Beryl Ford Collection/Rotary Club of Tulsa

Looking north on Admiral Place

Looking north from Admiral Place. I was probably less than 1/4 mile from the photographer when this was taken, since Mitchell Elementary School was and is just north of the drive-in, and we lived just a couple of blocks further to the north. On the far right, you can see houses that were given a free sound hookup, and thus free movies every night! Courtesy of the Beryl Ford Collection/Rotary Club of Tulsa

Looking east on Admiral Place

Looking east on Admiral Place. Memorial Place intersection hanging stoplights are in the far distance. There is the Git-N-Go again, and Eastgate shopping center's distinctive sign further on down the road. Courtesy of the Beryl Ford Collection/Rotary Club of Tulsa

Joel Burkhart drew cartoons in 1961 advertising the Admiral Twin's new in-car heaters.

The GCC "Feature Presentation" trailer and the Village Theatre, owned by Alex Blue

Admiral Twin Drive-In Checklist (printable)

(from GroupBlog 260) Andy Holthouse said:

This is a great website! It sure brings back a lot of memories for me. I grew up on N. 75th E. Ave., right next to the old Airview Drive-In.

My first "real job", other than newspaper delivery, was at the Admiral Twin Drive-In. Several of my best buddies worked there, too. In the summer of 1967, we used to procure quarts of beer, then climb up the screen tower inside all the way to the top. It was a 2x4 wood ladder that ran straight up. The pigeons that roosted in there would scare the bejeebers out of us, but nobody ever fell, thank God. We would sit up on the roof of the screen tower and drink beer. I can remember walking right up to the edge of the roof and looking down to the parking area below. Had the manager known we did those things, we would have been fired.

Even to this day, I know just about all the scenes to the movie "The Dirty Dozen" since I saw it at least 20 times that summer.

BTW, if anyone ever got sick at the Admiral Twin after eating popcorn in the summer of '67, it wasn't my fault. There was a crazy guy who used to work there who took great delight in boxing up nice big juicy junebugs in the popcorn boxes. He'd make the boxes with the junebugs real fat and over filled. That's how he knew which ones had the bugs in them after he'd stack them. Then, he would dole out the big boxes to people and watch them go back to their cars. It's funny, but there were never any complaints about that. I suppose crunchy popcorn was indistinguishable from june bugs in a dark car.

I can still remember when Glenn's '55 Ford station wagon got away from him one day when we were picking up trash and it rolled driverless all the way from behind the concession stand to the front row without hitting any speaker poles. It actually turned and stopped all by itself down there.

Yeah, we sure had fun at the Admiral Twin. Of course, we had fun at The Airview Drive-In as well. We used to "jump the fence" at the rear of the lot and get in for free. We'd just go up and sit in the cold metal chairs in front of the concession stand and act like we had paid. Only got caught a couple of times.

The Outsiders The Twin was a shooting location for Coppola's "The Outsiders" (1983). See and read more on TTM's "The Outsiders" pages.

The people who lived behind the Admiral Twin had a complimentary audio hook-up, allowing them to sit outside and watch a movie.

Crop circles

The webmaster said:

The tree I grew up at 7151 E. Jasper, near the Admiral Twin.

From the top of our tree, I could see the screens of both the Twin and the Airview Drive-In over on Pine Street. I yearned for Superman's gifts of super-hearing and super-vision so I could tell what was going on for free.

(Sound at the theatre was provided by a tinny speaker in a heavy duty enclosure hung on the inside of the car window. At the Admiral Twin today, you tune in the sound on your FM radio -- a big improvement.)

I recall seeing "The Nutty Professor", "Pillow Talk", and numerous Elvis movies at the Admiral Twin. We also saw the first part of "Bye Bye Birdie", the second-billed movie one evening. It was deemed too silly to watch when it got to the split-screen scene where teen-aged girls sang on the phone to each other. Our family drove out in disgust.

Bye Bye Birdie We never drove out on an Elvis movie, even though some of his movies had a high embarrassment factor. The Colonel bought some real loser tunes (probably for a song); only Elvis could have survived performing them in public. Not to put down the King's movies...they're still great fun to watch.Fun in Acapulco

We caught most of the bikini beach/surf movies. One time, movie star (and Oklahoman) John Ashley and his then-wife Deborah Walley made an appearance at the Twin in support of one of the "Beach Party" movies. For some reason, I remember hearing someone say that she had a "marvelous complexion".

The Admiral Twin's playground had one of those elephant-shaped slides, a swing set, and a merry-go-round with a dimpled steel base for traction.

I liked to save ticket stubs and popcorn boxes to use in my own theatre in our garage. I had a toy 8mm projector, and usually showed a silent movie about a chimpanzee who got into mischief, tearing up a pillow at the end of the reel.

Here are pictures and the sound of our Brownie 8 home movie projector (not a toy!), plus pics and comments about the Cartoon Hut at Sipes, and Laurel & Hardy movies shown at Shotgun Sam's.

(from Guestbook 128) Booger Red said:

I thought the anticipation of Tulsa's Admiral Twin drive-in was a big part of the escape to fantasy. Those who remember the 4 lanes all the way to Admiral Blvd. that were separated by a tall hedge in between. On weekends cars would pack the 2 entry lanes hours before sundown, to get their favorite spot! The big neon sign had the colors that would be imbedded in your memory, to remind you of the enjoyment you could have. Double features allowed more time for us kids to play on the swings & slides, because we were "Hyped" starting from the middle of the week, when we heard we were going. The intermission cartoons were the best! All ages got it, and enjoyed them.

(from GroupBlog 315, 9/3/2010) The webmaster experienced the last picture show at the Twin

Gaye and I were near 17th and Sheridan this afternoon when we got the news. We drove over and parked just off Admiral Place and walked to the entrance (the access road was blocked by a police car). You can see what we saw below.

We were there last Saturday for what I guess was to be the "last picture show" for the Twin. Our first choice had been "The Expendables", but there was a problem with the projector on the east side. So, with qualms, we went with "The Last Exorcism" on the west side.

We bought hot dogs and nachos and a big pickle from the concession stand. I brought some Miller High Life in a cooler to wash it all down. We also brought a Milky Way candy bar and some already-popped microwave popcorn. (I had diligently used the Admiral Twin Drive-In Checklist on this site.)

The weather was nice enough to sit outside the van on folding chairs.

As had been the case for quite awhile, the screen was so dark that we missed some of the details. That was just as well with "The Last Exorcism", as it creeped Gaye out. Soon, our neighbors with kids left the theater, probably for the same reason.

Gaye didn't last much longer. We skulked out of the theatre after finishing the snacks. I think that is the quickest I have ever left a drive-in since my family drove out of the Twin in disgust with "Bye Bye Birdie" in 1963.

In my mind, the Twin's screen had been doomed for years. The only surprise to me was that it lasted so long in such a condition. The painted-over tiles were poor light reflectors, there were holes in the structure, and it seemed to be inviting a tornado to knock it down or rip it apart from the inside. It was hard to imagine any way the 60-year-old, 9-story structure could stay intact much longer. The Hampton Hotels' award of $35,000 didn't manifest itself on the screen (mentioned in GB 179 five years ago).

Now I read that it is unlikely that the Twin will return due to the cost of a replacement. I'm not sure what else could be done with that land; maybe become a part of my old elementary school, Mitchell, or a park, if the city had funds to do it (also unlikely).

I grew up just a couple of blocks from the Twin. It was only two years old when I arrived in the world, but I've outlived it.

The webmaster at the remains of the Twin, 9/3/2010. 4:32 pm
Photo courtesy of Gaye Brown. Sorry for the goofy look on my face, but I guess it is reflexive.

(from GroupBlog 315) Former Twin projectionist Scott Linder said:

It is very interesting to see the photos and video of the Admiral Twin screen tower, and to recall my memories of working there as a motion picture operator a few decades ago.

The screen surfaces were indeed made of plywood, and had received many coats of flat-white paint over many years. It might be of interest to some that during the glory-days of drive-ins in the 50s, the SMPTE engineers did extensive work on improving screen luminance and maintenance for drive-in theatre operators.

The best method was to use bright corrugated aluminum sheeting as the screen facing. The corrugations ran vertically, using galvanized fasteners. This prevented rust and "screen-streaking" during rain and winter weather. Then, this bright metal surface was given a single light spray-coat of white gloss enamel paint. During the day this surface looked "mottled" and un-even, but it provided a beautiful picture at night. In addition, it lasted for years and could be easily cleaned with water before each season, preventing numerous paint-jobs. AND it was fire-resistant.

As to the technical benefits, the brilliant aluminum greatly improved screen luminance and the white coat corrected color balance. The vertical corrugations spread the projected image slightly and made the picture brighter to off-axis viewers.

In addition to screen treatments, the projectors were equipped with "drive-in" 5-blade shutters that passed more light, even though they increased flicker. This was considered an acceptable trade-off and the added flicker was only apparent during fast-action shots. The fastest F-stop lenses were used to provide best focus. Of course, the largest lamps possible were used and they were always water-cooled, along with film gates to control film buckling.

The Admiral Twin screen was most likely just a victim of age, although it will be interesting to know what the fire inspector finds as the cause.

But what's this? From GroupBlog 322, 3/3/2011:

Webmaster: The Admiral Twin will return this year! Story at KTUL.

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