Plainfield Edison Drive-In

1659 Oak Tree Road,
Edison, NJ 08820

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This former UA drive-in closed in September 1984 and was afterward demolished and replaced by a strip mall.

Contributed by RobertR

Recent comments (view all 12 comments)

JackS124
JackS124 on December 27, 2005 at 5:04 pm

Actually, the full name of the the theater was the Plainfield-Edison Drive-in. It was located on Oak Tree Rd. in Edison.

The theater had both a drive-in and an indoor theater. To be honest, I think the the theater was constructed earlier then the 60’s, but I’d have to research that.

The indoor reference I believe was to the actual indoor theater that was part of the main building. I don’t recall a specific area for watching the drive-in films from indoors unless you were referring to the concession area that had picnic benchs in front that you could sit at.

The Plainfield-Edison’s indoor theater was somewhat unique. When it was a single theater, it was one of the few theaters that had what we now call stadium seating in it. There was floor seating in the front part of the theater and then the stadium seating in the rear that was about 5-6 steps up from the floor. I remember there was a steel tubular rail located at the front of the stadium seating area. As a kid, you always wanted to sit in that front row behind the rail because you could put your feet up on on it!

I believe the indoor theater stayed a single at least through the late 70’s when it was split in half to become a twin. By the mid-80’s the theater became very dingy and rundown and subsequently closed.

jonathanstryker70
jonathanstryker70 on June 20, 2007 at 12:24 pm

This theater actually closed in September 1984. The last movie I saw there was (gulp) SHEENA, but I was 15, so there! :)

markp
markp on January 10, 2008 at 10:35 am

Up until the mid 1970’s the indoor was a single and there was the huge drive-in around it. They would show double features, the same ones inside and out. After the indoor was split in 2 around 1977, they started showing seperate movies in each indoor and a seperate double bill at the drive-in. The whole complex sat atop a hill and you could see the drive-in screen from 2-3 miles away. UA also had a sister complex to this in East Brunswick,N.J. called the Turnpike, which was run identically and twinned at the same time.

Roderick
Roderick on July 14, 2010 at 3:59 pm

I grew up in Edison, NJ, and although memory can sometimes be an imperfect window, I remember the name on the sign for this theater (which I drove by hundreds of times) being the rather long-winded “Plainfield-Edison Indoor/Outdoor Movie Theatre”. I don’t recall the sign having the word “Drive-In” on it in my lifetime although of course there was both a drive-in and indoor theater there.

I visited the place often when I was in high school (circa 1981-1983) which I guess was just before it went under. Even back then, I appreciated older movie theaters and I remember this one was like a grande dame of the 1950s that had fallen on very hard times. UA did not seem willing to invest money into maintaining it; the macadam particularly was a mess. It was like a speed bump – but everywhere!

I remember exploring the overgrown woods under the screen before it got dark, and finding collapsed and rusting children’s swing sets there. This must have been quite a place in its day, because it appeared there was a long lost and neglected small amusement park under the screen.

I tripped on something in the weeds, and bent down to discover miniature railroad tracks! I was able to follow them through the heavy brush around the screen (feeling a lot like Indiana Jones) until I found the remains of the little train rotting away on the far side of the loop where no one could see it. A good size tree had grown up right through the center of one of the passenger cars! That meant it had been sitting there waiting for passengers a very long time. Being there was kind of creepy.

Since the theatre was still in operation, I naively asked the manager what had happened to allow the train ride to decay like that. He replied “Every kid in the neighborhood set fire to it at some point in their life.” (!)

The last couple years of operation they showed The Rocky Horror Picture Show indoors at the smaller theater (which had a little wooden stage and mechanical curtains that opened before a movie) every Friday and Saturday at midnight for years. I was behind this curtain once; I recall seeing huge speakers for the film sound that looked old and cool. I remember they had a plate or something mounted on them that read “Voice of the Theatre”.

The snack bar manager’s name in those days was Maxinne. She was very nice to us Rocky Horror fans and I remember she even kept a scrapbook with pictures of us wearing our costumes. I think it was she that would talk to the crowd before the midnight screenings and ask them not to throw things at the screen!

The theatre was torn down and the site was redeveloped as a strip mall in the mid to late 1980s. I’m always a little sad when I drive passed there. I’ve often wondered if anyone rescued and restored the miniature railroad, or whether it might still lie buried there as fill under the new mall.

  • Rick
Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on July 14, 2010 at 4:02 pm

Thanks for the great story Rick,I enjoyed it.

Roderick
Roderick on July 15, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Thanks Mike, a couple other memories just came back to me of this place. The first dates to around the last year or two before they closed.

My girlfriend and I went there to see a movie that was playing at the smaller of their two indoor screens. As the time for the start of the film got near, we noticed there was only one other couple sitting with us in the entire theatre.

When it was time to begin, the mechanical curtains in front of the screen remained firmly closed. Maxinne, the snack bar manager (who might also have been assistant manager for the theatre itself), came in to address the crowd of 4 patrons.

“I’m sorry but we are not going to be able to show the movie tonight. We did not sell enough tickets to cover what we have to pay to screen it.”

As we were mumbling our disappointment, another employee called out to Maxinne from the adjacent snack bar. “Wait a minute,” she told us. After a hurried conversation she again spoke publicly:

“There is a car pulling up to the ticket booth in the parking lot. If they buy a ticket for this theater we might be OK.” We all held our breath. A moment later, she announced: “They did buy tickets to this film, so we can show it now.”

That is the only time in my entire life I ever had an experience like that, although in recent years I have seen a first-run film at a stadiun seating multi-plex…where no one attended except myself and my date!

One final note regarding the Plainfield-Edison Indoor/Outdoor Theater: in the early 1980s, when I was a regular there, I was told there was an older couple who walked to the indoor theater every weekend for the matinee. I think it was the Saturday noon matinee. They literally had not missed a weekend in years, and the theatre manager had — after their many years of loyal patronage — stopped charging the couple any admission! Can you imagine a sentimental act like that in today’s world?

  • Rick
Bruddy
Bruddy on August 11, 2010 at 7:30 pm

Rick, those are great memories you have. I think that’s why movies have such a strong hold on people—it’s not just the movies themselves you remember, but the people you were with when you saw them. I also remember the Plain-Edison. For some reason I remember it as the Plainfield Edison Drive-In, which is what my mother and friends called it as well. It was right down the street from the Iselin Theater, where I also went to see films. I remember seeing American Graffitti at the Plainfield Edison and later Hooper and the animated Lord of the Rings. Good memories.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on May 31, 2011 at 8:29 pm

Roderick,I have across more than few folks saying theatre managers ask moviegoers to leave on the last show,I worked for ABC theatres,Plitt and GCC never in all my career in management did we ask someone to leave,what nonsense,Isn’t that what we were in the business for to entertain be it 2pm or 9:30 pm.Crazy if you ask me,must be small town policy even though members have told me larger cities did it.It never would have crossed my mind to issue rainchecks.And believe me their where plenty nights I had wished one to show,but outside a freak snow strom in Georgia someone always came.

DawnK
DawnK on July 4, 2012 at 12:51 am

Hello to All, This may sound absolutely off the wall, but I need any information that can be supplied about the owners or operators of this theater during the year 1962. This is of extreme personal significance, as I have been led to believe that one of these people may be my birth parent. This person may not even know that they have a child. I have only good intentions, in asking for this information. If you can help or know of someone who can, please post here or email me at . Thank you.

cgardel
cgardel on October 23, 2012 at 6:03 pm

The first movie there was Captain Newman MD and it opened in the spring of 1964. I remember many dates going to that drive in. Whew! I remember watching a movie in February 1966 when it was about 20 degrees F out. But I had my honey to keep me warm.

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