Super 17 Drive-In

5108 George Washington Highway,
Portsmouth, VA 23702

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Super 17 Drive-In

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The Super 17 Drive-In opened in 1950 and closed around 1979. This single screen drive-in had a capacity for 300 cars.

Contributed by Lost Memory

Recent comments (view all 9 comments)

ghamilton on April 25, 2006 at 1:53 pm

Yo!Mr.Memory,got a Portsmouth querry for you.Today,I took a wrong turn because of a tunnel jam.Went through the “Craddock Historic District"In the middle is the Afton Square shopping district.It is on hard times for sure,but what potential.There is a delightful old theater there-the Afton.It has stage facilities.Brick construction with the old marquee hanging on.Written in old paint on one side is"Help save the Afton”.The theater is on Afton Parkway.The place looks sound and savable,if the area took off.The area is a couple miles South of the drive in in question.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on April 25, 2006 at 2:10 pm

Mr “G”…This article is around two years old:

“Nov. 28—PORTSMOUTH, Va. — A few years ago, things looked promising for the long-neglected Afton Theatre in Portsmouth’s Cradock neighborhood.

A group had formed to restore the movie theater and make it once again the cornerstone of the commercial district. They spoke hopefully of raising $2.2 million and converting the building into a performing-arts venue.

But since then, the nonprofit group hasn’t raised a 10th of the money needed for the restoration. The building has continued to deteriorate. Parts of the roof have caved in. The doors are boarded up".

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on April 25, 2006 at 2:19 pm

I don’t know what happened in the above comment but here is the rest of the article:

“Black paint peels from the Afton Theatre’s sagging marquee. A condemnation notice tacked to the door distracts passers-by from a suitcase lying nearby on the sidewalk, spilling shabby clothes across the pavement.

“It has been kind of discouraging,” said Anne Singleton, one of the original members of the theater restoration group. “I was hoping that restoring it would’ve brought back the area.” Officials in Portsmouth’s Planning Department are preparing to unveil a large-scale revitalization plan for Cradock in January. But as they press ahead with a strategy they hope will bring back the neighborhood, the theater’s future is uncertain.

Singleton and her business partner, David Beachler, don’t go into the theater because of safety concerns.

“I’d hate to see it go down,” Singleton said. “But we’re not going to have a choice sooner or later because it has been condemned.”

Only two members remain on the board of the non profit Afton Center for the Arts Inc. Donations have almost entirely dried up.

The Afton Theatre opened in 1937. At the time, it was hailed as one of the area’s most modern movie theaters.

Dan Griffin remembers his parents giving him a quarter and sending him to the theater on weekends. He’d pay 10 cents for a ticket, get 10 cents' worth of candy, and have a nickel left over.

The Afton closed in the 1970s as Cradock’s commercial viability started to falter. Shoppers were drawn to malls and busy retail corridors, not the sleepy Cradock square blocks off a main road.

Griffin, an architect, first studied the possibility of reviving the theater in the mid-‘90s. At that time, parts of the roof were already missing, and the interior was in shambles.

“The place was just in a total state of disrepair,” Griffin said. “But if you had the dollar bills, at that point of time, it probably could have been saved.”

He hasn’t been in the building since. When Beachler purchased it, there wasn’t much of a theater left to renovate. The building consisted mainly of four walls and half a roof, with a few meager rows of decayed seats. Rain and animals had gotten into the building.

“I can only surmise it’s gotten worse,” Griffin said. “It would take a lot of bucks, I’m sure, to do anything with it.”

Singleton and Beachler estimated that it would cost at least $2.2 million to bring the Afton back u $200,000 of it to replace the roof.

They and several other community members created the non profit in 2002 to begin fund raising. From Cradock, a largely working-class neighborhood, they raised $1,000 from the civic league and received a few other donations. There were two small fund-raising music festivals in 2002 and 2003. But since then u nothing.

Singleton said a $25 donation was the only money that trickled in last month to the group’s fund with the Portsmouth Community Foundation.

“The money that actually came out of Cradock is really pretty small,” she said.

She estimates that she and Beachler have spent $40,000 or $50,000 of their own money to purchase and care for the building.

Originally, she and others had hoped the city would help fund the renovations. But pleas to city officials have fallen flat. The city already has Willett Hall for a performing-arts theater, and it just didn’t seem as if there was a need to spend more public money, City Councilman Charles B. Whitehurst Sr. said.

He said if the theater were to be restored, it’d need to be with donations from corporations and individuals u a difficult task in Cradock, which is dotted with rental properties and small, struggling businesses.

“It has to be a private enterprise,” Whitehurst said. “And I don’t know if there’s that kind of money out there to do that.”

Adding to the problem is the neighborhood itself, where groups of residents and business owners have spent the past few years fighting among themselves. In Cradock, nearly every organization has a nemesis, and the theater non profit is no exception.

“The opposition has been there from day one,” Singleton said. “It’s made it really difficult.”

A citizen complaint led to five recent code-enforcement citations for peeling paint and rust on the marquee, she said. Whitehurst said he recently had heard from a resident complaining to city officials about the state of the building and the non profit group itself.

Singleton insists that if she just had a few more board members u including someone who could revive the group’s Web site u fund raising could begin again.

But others who have been involved with the non profit have dropped away. Karen Barba, the Cradock resident who first spearheaded efforts to save the theater, left more than a year ago to start her own performing-arts group. She declined to be interviewed .

When the Planning Department in January unveils a revitalization strategy for Cradock and the commercial corridors leading to the neighborhood, one of the big pieces involved in the study will be the commercial district at Afton Square u including the theater, comprehensive planning manager Landon Wellford said.

He said community theaters invariably attract people to a neighborhood and enhance the quality of life. But whether it will work in Cradock remains to be seen.

“There’s no question that Afton needs to have a serious look at it u at what it’s going to be,” Wellford said. “From an aesthetic standpoint, you’d love to see a whole mix of uses. Who wouldn’t want that kind of stuff?

“But from a business standpoint, I don’t know. I don’t want to give up hope on it.”

tomdelay on April 25, 2006 at 2:26 pm

For some reason I am being sent updates on this theatre. Please remove my name from this entry.

ghamilton on April 25, 2006 at 2:31 pm

Again,I stand in awe.But that sure answers the questions,but the situation sounds so sad,thank.This theater deserves it’s own listing and more attention.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on April 25, 2006 at 3:00 pm

Since you found the Afton theater, you should have the honor of adding it. The article gives an opening year of 1937 and closing in the 1970’s. You don’t need much more than that to submit it.

ghamilton on April 28, 2006 at 3:05 am

I tried to ad it,but it’s been 4 days,maybe it didn’t go through.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on April 28, 2006 at 3:21 am

Maybe it did get lost. You can send an email and ask if it was received or not. You might have to submit it again.

Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois
Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois on September 5, 2006 at 5:35 pm

LEVINE THEATRICAL ENTERPRISES is the chain for this Drive-In.

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