drive-in cinema site could soon become a convenience store | Utah News

By CHARLES McCOLLUM, Herald-Journal

LOGAN, Utah (AP) – A vacant lot in South Logan has lived through the last century in a way that could be described as “America by the road.”

From a plot of farmland along the highway, it became the site of Logan’s first drive-in drive-in in 1947. And after welcoming families munching on popcorn and “trained” teenagers for a decade or so. years it has been converted into a dumping ground for Cache Valley’s Rusty Buicks, Oldsmobiles and Ramblers, reported the Herald-Journal.

When the dump closed, the back of the still standing display frame was painted white and featured a promotion from Utah State University. Now the city has approved a site plan for a convenience store / gas station there.

Motorists in Cache Valley pass a significant remnant of what used to be known as the Logan Drive-In whenever they cross 10th West on US Highway 89-91. The large cement wall visible in the southwest corner of the intersection may look like an old movie screen, but it’s actually a frame for a wooden screen that used to do it.

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“I would hate to see him go away, but I understand. You can’t keep everything, ”said Friend Weller, a Hyrum resident who researched the history of the Logan Drive-In with its city rival, the Cache Drive-In, once located at the location. current Sam’s Club.

In the early 90s, after scanning newspaper microfilms for newspaper clippings, Weller decided to search the property in US 89-91 and found several artifacts from the old theater – all of which remained. practically intact since then.

He identified a small building at the back of the field as the theater’s bathrooms, and he assumes that a largely collapsed and overgrown cinder block building about 50 meters from the screen housed the projector. movie theater and snack bar.

A handful of old drive-in speaker poles can be found along the edge of the property. They were ripped from the ground and have cement blocks at their base, and the top of a pole still has electrical wiring. For those unfamiliar with drive-ins, cars entering outdoor facilities would park in stalls next to one of these poles, each containing a wired speaker that the driver of the vehicle could easily attach to a partially open car window.

Weller said the poured concrete frame of the Logan Drive-In, or what he called the “screen tower,” was reminiscent of the earliest drive-ins in the 1930s, and instead of speaker poles , some of these early outdoor theaters had a “large honking speaker” atop the screen tower that played sound throughout the property. This was apparently not the case with the more modern Logan Drive-In. The Cache Drive-In, opened three years later on Memorial Day 1950, was even more modern with a metal movie screen supported by metal scaffolding.

Newspaper ads from the early 1950s show that the two drive-ins engaged in a massive price war, with entry for a car full of people falling as low as a dime. Weller said the owners were able to admit the crowds virtually for free, as a large portion of their profits came from the sale of food and snacks.

Majorie Andersen of Wellsville remembers loading the car with kids, blankets and pillows to watch movies at Logan Drive-In. At the time, his family operated the property now occupied by the American West Heritage Center, so the theater was only a short drive down the road.

She still remembers some of the movies the family watched, but said the cartoons before the movies were almost a bigger draw, especially for kids, who often fell asleep long before a double ended. movie.

The Western movie “The Outlaw” was Logan Drive-In’s feature on the weekend of June 18, 1948. An advertisement for the theater in The Herald Journal featured a seductive illustration of actress Jane Russell and presented the film as ” Howard Hughes “daring production… exactly as it was filmed !! Not a cut scene !!

Andersen remembers the hype around the movie and thinks she may have seen it at Logan Drive-In. “We didn’t take the kids to that one,” she said with a chuckle.

According to nostalgic site Cinema Treasures, the Logan Drive-In was opened by a man named Elmer Brown. This week’s Herald Journal couldn’t find any information on Brown, but it appears he sold the theater after only two years of operation, as evidenced by a newspaper ad at the start of the 1949 summer season announcing that the company was under new management.

Cinema Treasures notes that The Cache Drive-In originally belonged to the Harris-Voeller Theaters, but Weller and other locals remember the owner as the famous valley businessman, Harold Heninger, who died in 2006. Weller once stumbled upon a promotional flyer listing upcoming films. for both theaters, which prompts him to question whether Cache Drive-In, under either owner, could have bought out Brown.

The Cache Drive-In, which lasted until the 1980s, was much larger than its southern rival, with 508 stalls compared to around 300 for the Logan. It also had more sophisticated technology.

“From what I know, the Cache had bigger, brighter lamps in their projection system so the picture was better,” Weller said. “The Logan, being a cement screen tower like this, was only designed for what was called flat film, not reach film… so when they released CinemaScope films after the The Logan, the Cache added wings to the side of their screen tower to accommodate the larger format.

Plans for a combined convenience store, gas station and restaurant on the former theater grounds were approved by the Logan Planning and Zoning Commission in September, but at the time, owner Blake Dursteler stated that the project was only conceptual and not necessarily a certainty. He could not be reached for comment this week.

Weller, a tech whiz who works at Utah Public Radio and runs his own low-watt radio station in Hyrum, said he researched local drive-ins in the 1990s because that he had the idea of ​​creating his own theater. Weller was passionate about early lighting and sound technology, and his uncle was a projectionist for the Grand Vu Drive-In in Moab for 32 years. His uncle’s work sparked young Weller’s interest in the projection processes involved as well as the cultural phenomenon of watching movies outdoors.

“My big plan was to open a drive-in and use vintage equipment,” Weller said. “I thought it would be really fun. My uncle died a long time ago or he probably would have said no, don’t. It’s kind of like a mom-and-pop business. You live there, you don’t go to work, you work all the time.

While five drive-ins are still operating in Utah, the number of outdoor theaters here and across the country has steadily declined over the past four decades. Weller cites several reasons for this, including the advent of VCRs in the 1980s, the growing value of land along major roads, and the long-standing struggle of drive-ins to screen first-run films.

But in the 1940s and 1950s, when Logan’s two drive-in drives thrilled customers, the conditions were right for the product. As Weller says:

“The whole concept of the drive-in was that you could come home from work and you didn’t have to clean yourself to go out. … People were hot, they were tired, there was no television, and if you wanted to go to the movies at the movies, you had to clean everything, get dressed. With a drive-in, you can simply park in your car, come as you are.

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