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Absolutely incorrect, twice, NY. The Pike was fronted by Kitts Lane (off of Rte. 5 – aka Berlin Turnpike). The entrance driveway was at the non-Rte. 5 end of Ann. The aerial photo shows Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse which is across the turnpike. The Drive-In was located on the opposite side of the pike, where Super Stop and Shop plaza is located. Thanks, DaveLounderMotionPictures.com (Kensington, CT —– 855-LOUNDER)
I am selling a postcard of this Drive-In (features aerial view of site) on ebay. Thanks, and LIVE YOUR DREAMS! Dave Lounder (DaveLounder.com)
My former partner and I attempted to re-open the Hartford Drive-In (about 775 car capacity by our count if I remember correctly — Drive-Ins routinely lied about how many vehicles could be held to help them fleece the film companies who were unsupportive of them at one time — the distribs weren’t stupid by any means as they sent out car-counters to ascertain the amount of business). The reason we did not lease the property is because the owners' (The Elias M. Loew descendants) attorneys wanted something in the ballpark of $75k for a really short season, and in return offered us NOTHING but the keys! The manager’s name was Richard “Dick” Buzzell, not Fred. I worked there, at the Pike, and at Newington Cinema I II III (I have the cinema parking sign in one of my home theaters … for the right price, I MAY be willing to part with it!). I also have a color copy of a photo of the marquee when it was in pretty good condition, from the late 70s, which I am planning to use for an upcoming business venture. Dave Lounder (DaveLounder.com)
Okay, people, here is the REAL scoop! The fire that destroyed Woolworths next door DID NOT damage the theater! How do I know? I attempted to re-open it in the early 2000s and was shown the interior by the realtor. THERE WAS NO VISIBLE SMOKE OR FIRE DAMAGE ANYWHERE!! Why did I not go forward? The cinema owner stripped the interior of anything and everything of any value. The screens were damaged, the seats were shot (actually, they were spent while it was being bled … I mean operated). The A/C had died while the joint was still in operation so the owner cleverly installed ceiling fans (worked great with 300+ people in dead summer!). While shuttered, scavengers stripped the copper from the heat unit. I assumed since I was just planning to lease the unit, the heat and air would be repaired / replaced! I was told that I had to replace them, AND have the roof over the place repaired at MY expense as well (the roof leaked when the moviehouse was open — anyone remember the commercial garbage pails taking up seats in Cine 2??)! And, best of all, the owners wanted $10,000.00 per month!!! When asked what I would receive for my rent money, I was told “the keys.” I ended up leasing an 8-plex for $2,000 less! When attempting to first re-open the Kensington Cinema (I got a variance for a marquee, but not for parking … politically-fueled, but that’s another story) I spoke to several theater equipment dealers and found out that the Berlin owner had contacted them to determine current replacement values for his equipment, and then never got back to them (i.e. He wanted full replacement cost from his insurance carrier to assist with his retirement). NOTE: The owner and his late brother (they comprised the Outdoor Theatre Corp. —– owned Manchester & Pike Drive-In as well, hence the name) also operated the Vernon Twin, which just happened to close at the very same time … hint, hint!! Berlin Cine offered dirty carpeting (for way too long); uncomfortable as hell seats which had seen their day long ago — the maintenance guy just kept stuffing the seats with foam, hence the bulky look, and the cushions falling off on occasion; dirty screens; sticky floors; broken-down projectors; the list goes on … I could tell you stories that you wouldn’t believe, but I’d rather not get sued! Who said mice? Hell, the Elm was infested with roaches, but I digress … okay to sum up — Berlin Cine was abandoned after being stripped. The space remains but there were tickets strewn everywhere and popcorn oil had been poured on the carpeting (I saw this while touring the site). The chance of this theater ever re-opening is a fantasy, unless someone strikes it big and doesn’t mind operating a business that is no longer viable. I know it’s not, as I attempted to capture the early 80s magic from Kensington Cinema, not once, but twice …. the customers never materialized … I believe that any theater will less than maybe 12 screens AND stepped or stadium seating is doomed before it opens!!!
I am selling the theatre’s old Coke lighted sign on ebay.
Hey Phantom Screen, Yes, Mr. Coan and I were the two who tried to get the gate opened again in 2000. The asking price for the land was $400,000 in ‘96, but was raised because of some retail “interest” in the area. The third partner in '96 was Don Brown, who re-opened the “Diamond State Drive-In” in DE and operated it until the original owner passed and her heirs decided to sell the land in 2008. He evidently went on to purchase the “Dream Drive-In” in WV (I think), but then couldn’t open because of an archaeic law re. african-americans, or something along those lines. I’ve read that since then, he’s been involved in a NY Drive-In somewhere. The three of us had looked at the “Airport Drive-In” in NY (HUGE theatre) but it is four hours from my house, and during negotiations, the theatre’s power room in the basement completely flooded, and the landlord wanted nothing to do with repairing the situation so we backed-out. After 2000, Coan and I attempted to purchase the “Danielson-Putnam Drive-In” in CT (my down payment for Sutton + Coan’s was put down as a deposit). After careful reconsideration (the place required MAJOR renovations, it was almost completely in a flood plain, the state required re-timing of street signal lights, etc.), I decided to withdraw. Unfortunately, Coan “decided” NOT to give me my money back! We had been best buddies … I was forced to sue him (which I easily won), and haven’t spoken to him since. Brown doesn’t like me, probably because he had “used” Coan back in '96, and I didn’t like it. Oh well … life goes on! Oh yeah, as a sidelight, Coan and I had also attempted the re-opening of the decrepit “Hartford Drive-In” in CT. The late builder’s daughter’s attorneys demanded something like an upfront $75,000 cash for a four-month season (why just four months? who knows!), and required us to carry a million dollar insurance policy, so we gave it up. Oh well … life goes on …
I re-opened this theater in 2002, after it had been closed for two years. Many of the lights were out, there was garbage and dust everywhere … speakers had been stolen from behind one screen (the robbers cut the screen), and one of the projectors in another auditorium required expensive repairs. It took me several months, and a lot of elbow grease and LONG hours to get this monstrosity up and running. I opened on four screens, and later expanded to six. I was very proud of what I accomplished (see the pics)! The theatre neither made, nor lost money for me —– my rent was $8,000.00 per month (the owner wanted $16,500!!!), and I had about ten employees. I couldn’t see any reason to continue to work for free (the landlord wouldn’t reduce the rent) so after three months I walked away (Note: I had previously attempted to re-open the Kensington Cinemas, but couldn’t get a necessary permit). Had I opened the Kensington, I doubt this theater would have EVER been re-opened. Sadly, the operator who succeeded me put NO money into the place … his only knowledge of theater operation was what he gleaned from hanging around me … had 0 employees … overslept the door opening time on occasion .. yelled at customers … had underage boys working for him for free … etc., etc. I later went on to operate the State Theatre Twin in Jewett City. A patron base never developed there, and we were forced to close, leaving some employees, and bills unpaid (regrettably). The gentleman who took it over tried art films, but failed also. Since been gutted. The day of the discount cinema is LONG GONE!
Nice little Drive-In! Don Brown and Patty ? did a great job bringing the abandoned theatre back to life, an then operating it successfully for many years! Damn shame it couldn’t continue to operate …
I was one of the three partners who revived the shuttered, decaying Motor-In in 1996. Unfortunately, the town demanded a police detail. My two partners refused to pay after some of the on-duty officers were discovered sleeping on the property! Note: The state police offered to direct traffic for FREE, but the GREEDY Sutton cops wouldn’t allow it! The town then shut-down this beautiful, old (opened in 1947) theatre three short months after it was re-opened, and business was starting to boom. In 2000, I, along with one of the two other partners attempted to re-open the Drive-In again, but we were met with anger from the town council and the police chief, stemming from the 1996 debacle … this, along with a laundry list of EXPENSIVE, “necessary improvements,” caused us to regrettably withdraw our dream. The original owner’s son, Tom, has since passed away (nice guy, but very tough!). The land is currently owned by his two living partners — an attorney, and the G.M. of Polar Beverages. They are asking an obscene amount of money for the land!!! They’ll NEVER get it, as the property is in a desolate area, is among many other properties listed for sale, and just isn’t worth the money! Sad!
The Kensington Cinema opened as Carroll’s Cinema in 1971. It became the Kensington Cinema in approximately 1978 when the manager took control. I began employment there in approximately 1980 (I lived down the street – it was my favorite indoor theater). Due to declining attendance and a rejection of the owner’s liquor license application, the theater was sold (and closed) prior to Christmas in 1981 to the owners of the Manchester Twin (adult – former Jerry Lewis theater). The new owners wanted the theater up and running when they took over so they commissioned the (prior) owner to re-open for two weeks at Christmastime, at which time RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK did booming business. The theater again closed and re-opened in 1982 as Cine-Fox, a XXX venue, which folded in approximately 1986. I left in 1984 or thereabouts. I attempted to re-open the Kensington Cinema in approximately 2000, but was denied a parking permit (when the theater first opened, the fronting plaza was about half the size of today — there was tight available theater parking, and the theater could be viewed from Chamberlain Highway). The theater was a small one-screener with 333 original seats (I have the only one remaining, in my house), pared down to 313 seats (the front row was removed after 1978 [i think] so it could be used to replace broken seats) when it closed. It had a very tiny lobby and concession stand and a tiny manager’s office. After Cine-Fox closed, the building was used as an auction gallery for some years — hence the loading dock addition.
The Sky was featured in the 1985 movie “American Drive-In!”
Shaws is a new building, as are the others. ALL of the Pike was demolished. The driveways are the same, though, — approximately. Drive-In Dave Lounder
The “official” car-count of the Pike may have been 350, but it held more like 600+ cars (I think 650)! It was not a tiny Drive-In. Drive-In Dave Lounder (Pike employee approx. 1982-1985 — left in between to work at the Plainville Drive-In, then came back.) DaveLounder.com