54 Drive-In will live on in Texas

By BOB JOHNSON
Register City Editor

Doug Warner removes panels from the 54 Drive-In screen, which will reassembled in a outdoor movie complex at Ennis, Texas.

Metal remains of the now defunct 54 Drive-In theater won’t be sold for scrap.
The 68-foot-tall screen, made up of a series of panels, is being dismantled and sometime early next year will be the fifth viewing platform in an outdoor movie complex near Ennis, Texas, 20 miles south of Dallas.
“We hoped to get everything done this week,” Doug Warner said Monday. “Now it looks like it will be next week.” Rainy weather due to move into the area tonight or tomorrow and eventually be accompanied by freezing temperatures will stall work.
“We’ll take everything above ground except the (projector-concession) building,” said Warner, who works for Galaxy Drive-In Theatre, owner of the Texas theaters.
On Monday, Warner and Larry Brittain were grinding off the heads of bolts that have held the screen’s panels in place since the movie theater opened in 1951. The last step will be to take down large sections of channel iron that are the skeleton of the screen.
“We may have to change the screen a little when we get it to Ennis,” Warner said.
The configuration is different from others at the Texas site and not exactly suited for projection of today’s movies, he said.
Galaxy offers patrons authentic vintage car speakers — hence interest in the ones that haven’t been in use recently at the Gas drive-in — for “a return to the nostalgic days of real metal speakers hanging in your car window,” according to a Galaxy advertisement. Viewers also have the option of tuning in on their vehicle’s FM radio, which has been the sound delivery system at the 54 Drive-In in recent years.
Galaxy also is a client of Sonic Equipment Co., 900 Miller Rd. Sonic is preparing 3-D projection equipment for use at the Galaxy complex, which will be the first for outdoor theaters, according to Warner.
The Galaxy outdoor theaters are open 365 days a year and two miniature golf courses are in an adjoining entertainment area. The outdoor screens at the Ennis complex are among about 400 remaining, Warner said. Once there were more than 4,000 outdoor movie theaters scattered across the nation.

THE 54 DRIVE-IN got a facelift last spring for what turned out to be its last season.
B & B Theatres announced late in the season that 2009 would be the theater’s last, which prompted a petition drive to keep it open.
The company, which also owns Sterling Six cinemas here, said it understood the feelings of patrons, including hundreds who signed the petitions, but that economics dictated closing the outdoor theater. Financial considerations were made more pressing by vandalism against the cinder block projection-concession building, including an incident in which a pickup truck was rammed into the building.
Several people who recalled watching movies far into the night at the Gas theater called the Register Monday and this morning to report the screen’s dismantling.
“It’s so sad,” said Susan Booth, who drives from Moran several days a week for her work at MDR Insurance, 212 South St. “I remember going there so many times when I was younger.”
But, times change, she observed.
The Ennis complex has advantage over the Gas site in having a far greater population base, being on the south edge of the Dallas metroplex.