Plainfield Edison Drive-In

1659 Oak Tree Road,
Edison, NJ 08820

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NickyG on August 10, 2015 at 11:27 am

saw Mark of the Devil and another horror flick I can’t remember somtime in the 70s…also, I worked at the Turnpike Indoor/Outdoor in 79 and 1 nite had to drive bags of popocorn to this place (both UA owned) and it was a rainy nite and I almost got creamed at the notoriously dangerous Green Street circle

jasonbourne on February 22, 2015 at 12:23 pm

We all must have been travelling in the same circles, or at least very close. While you guys worked the vinema, i was next door working at Roy Rodgers,1976-1978. When your movie let out on a Friday or Saturday night it was like a flood at Roy’s. In fact, our store did the highest $ sales in NJ, no doubt thanks to your theatre. We would close Roys and go to Jack in the Box on Parsonage across from the mall. Life was so simple then.

jasonbourne on February 22, 2015 at 12:16 pm

Roderick, unfortunately i do not recall the colors of the trains. I also never got to ride it, but recall seeing it in operation. I remember the concession stand excatly as you described it. Yes, that drive-in had to be the place to go on weekends back at its peak. I remember being in an architect’s office and seeing the rendering for this very drive-in. I saw it in his office back in the late 80’s. It was a full sized framed painting and must have been the conceptual picture of what the theatre would look like when it wss built. Funny, I recall staring at that picture and all my memories of that place played out in my head. Those were certainly good times, when family values and togetherness meant something.

markp on February 21, 2015 at 8:08 pm

Oh yes I remember that popcorn room very well. Thankfully when I worked there the manager put whoever he didnt like or who was under age to work long hours back there. I only did a few shifts back there in my years there.

Roderick on February 21, 2015 at 6:45 pm

Jason and Mark – thanks for posting and sharing those memories!

Jason – this may seem an odd question but do you have any specific memories about that train ride under the screen? Such as what colors it may have been painted, whether it was lettered for the theater, and how it was used — ie, did it run before dark, or after dark during intermission between features?

You are the only person I have found who remembers it. I actually own a number of pieces of the identical train ride that was at the Turnpike Drive-In (East Brunswick), another UA Drive-In theatre, and would like to know what my train actually looked like.

If it was still running in 1967-68 that must have been near the very end. When I explored its weed-buried remains, under the screen in 1982, there were trees with a good three or four inch diameter trunk growing through the center of the tracks!

Also…on those Plainfield Edison concession bar memories…ah, yes…the pizza roll was my favorite! Must have been a really busy place at the height of the drive-in craze. I recall the snack bar had a double serve-yourself stainless steel tray shelf, on both sides of a center island where the hot food was waiting to be grabbed.

Hi Mark – you brought up the Menlo Park GCC. I had one of my very first jobs at that place, while still in school. I was an usher and would be scheduled for a seven or eight hour shift with no breaks. When I asked the manager about that, he said “I consider your job a break.” LOL!

I left because of a weird policy there at the time. One day a week, each usher took an 8 hour shift just popping popcorn in a small, hot, windowless room off to the side of the screen. No idea why they did not spread that job out a bit, so no one was stuck in that little room so long. You brought back a memory there!


markp on February 20, 2015 at 2:18 pm

I cant stand 3D. I was the last projectionist to work at Menlo Park. I started there during Star Wars.

jasonbourne on February 20, 2015 at 7:36 am

Menlo Park Cinema was another of the best! Saw Star Wars (4) times there. Having Roy Rodgers next door only made it one of the best movie date destinations. Keep your 3D and Surround Sound, I’ll take a drive-in with a metal speaker hanging on my car window anytime.

markp on February 20, 2015 at 5:39 am

By all means, keep rambling. I do it all the time, having been a projectionist for over 39 years. I had a good friend who worked here in the late 70’s, at the same time I worked at the Menlo Park and Woodbridge Twins. We would always let their staff in for free and they would let ours in for free. Those old theatres and drive ins beat any multiplex of today.

jasonbourne on February 19, 2015 at 5:20 pm

What a great theatre. My memories are only good and very,very vivid. First movie i recall seeing was “THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE Ugly”, to this day when i watch that movie i see Tucco’s face on that big outdoor screen running through the cemetary. Other movies i saw there; The Sound Of Music, indoor thetare. “PATTON”, outdoors, “Live and Let Die”, indoors. My first drive in car date was there in my 1971 Olds Cutlass, funny thing though i cant recall what movie we saw, but i dont think thats why we went to the movies. God i miss those vinyl bench front seats, they were so comfortable and roomy. Back to the movies; the very lastmovie they showed was “The Last Starfighter” which was indoors, and i think i saw it close to the last day they operated, by myself just because. I do remember the train under the screen, it was very cool and in operation in 1967-1968. I will always cherish my mrmories of this place and often frequent this location, and even though it has changed drastically, i can still see that train under the movie screen. And before i go, i must mention that indoor concession stand with their foil wrapped hamburgers and hot dogs, and most importantly my steel canned 10 oz Yoo hoo drink. No Yoo hoo drink since has ever tasted as good. Sorry for rambling, but i guess i’m showing my age.

markp on October 23, 2014 at 1:34 pm

Just curious, it was an old UA indoor/outdoor. If the indoor was 2, which it was after twinningt, and the drive in was a single screen, shouldnt it be listed as 3 screens? And then there would still be the seat count for the indoor.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

Thanks for the great story Rick,I enjoyed it.

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
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.

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! :)

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.

MikeH on June 9, 2005 at 7:12 am

The Plainfield Drive-In was originally built in the early 60s and, if I remember correctly, was somewhat unique in that it was an indoor-outdoor theatre. You could watch from your car or you could go into a regular theatre that had a view of the drive-in screen through a large window. When built it had only one screen. If it closed as a twin the second screen must have been added later.
UA may have bought the theatre after it was built but I’m pretty sure they were not the original owner/operators.