Turnpike Indoor/Outdoor Theatre

Route 18 and Tices Lane,
East Brunswick, NJ 08816

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Turnpike Indoor/Outdoor Theatre

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Built in 1959. Until 1968, the Turnpike was a combination drive-in, indoor theatre, with double features showing on a reverse schedule. The indoor theater was split from drive-in in 1969 and opened with road show of “Hello Dolly”. The theater was twinned around 1973. Closed in 1983, and demolished for what is now a condo complex.

The theatre’s design was the same as the Plainfield/Edison Indoor/Outdoor on Oak Tree Road, in Edison.

This design was typical for UA in early 60’s, as the Route 46 Totowa Theatre was of the same design.

The theatre showed the initial roadshows of Sensuround pictures “Rollercoaster” and “Midway” during the 70’s.

Contributed by Gregg Thompson

Recent comments (view all 11 comments)

NickyG on July 17, 2007 at 11:46 am

I worked there in late 70s…Yes great sound system for certain movies…Drive-in was a zoo, $4 a carload so the place for punks to drink unmolested for hours, not always fun for workers…

BarryMonush on March 19, 2008 at 12:33 pm

This was always such a bizarre concept – paying as you drove into the complex and then parking in what was bascially the parking spaces for the drive-in. The theatre always seemed rather dumpy and was never a favorite of mine. I remember seeing THE EVIL DEAD at the drive-in, or rather trying to see the EVIL DEAD, as a thick fog rolled in and made the already dark movie hard to see or comprehend. So my friend made up her own interpretation of what happened in the plot, which made the experience quite enjoyable.

NickyG on March 19, 2008 at 12:36 pm

Then there were the deep fried hamburgers we “cooked” up…guess with enough beer/weed they were edible enough…

VincentPrice on October 11, 2008 at 3:18 pm

My friend’s mom worked in concessions there. I remember getting in for free, getting free food and drinks and just hanging out there.

VincentPrice on December 28, 2008 at 6:55 am

I saw The Deep and The World According to Garp here.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 10, 2010 at 1:14 am

The Turnpike Drive-In was nearing completion when Boxoffice published this article about it in their issue of March 3, 1958. The indoor theater, though planned from the beginning, was built after the drive-in had opened. The architect for the entire project was Drew Eberson.

Roderick on July 15, 2010 at 9:52 pm

Joe, that is a great article! Thanks for posting. It seems to confirm something I have long suspected: that the chain of NJ “U/A” Drive-ins were not actually built by U/A, but were acquired as a chain at some point during the decline of drive-in popularity. In my experience U/A certainly did not seem to take a lot of interest in maintaining them.

I wonder how many theaters the Appleman family built to this general design? I know of The Turnpike Drive-In, The Plainfield-Edison Indoor/Outdoor Theatre, The Somerville Drive-in, and I was always told that the now demolished “Birch Hill” nightclub near Old Bridge NJ had been a U/A Drive-in at one time. I am assuming these were all built by the same people (presumably the Applman family) because they share a similar look.

Appeal for information: the Turnpike Drive-In had a large-scale miniature railroad that ran in a big figure “8” around the grounds near the marquee. It would have been visible from the major roadway that runs past the theatre. I would like to hear from anyone who has memories of this train ride actually operating. A scan of a photo would be a great find.

You see, my family managed to save a little piece of the Turnpike Drive-In. About 1988 we answered an ad from a scrap metal dealer that ran in The Paper Shop. The advertiser sold us the remains of the passenger cars from this little train; apparently this was the scrapper who had been contracted to tear down the theater for redevelopment.

One of these days I’d like to rebuild the cars to the way they looked when new at the Turnpike Drive-in. I know what the bodies looked like, but a photo would be tremendously helpful in recreating the original paint scheme and lettering.

Does anyone know when this kiddie train concession stopped running? I visited the Turnpike Drive-in while it was still showing movies indoors and out (late 1970s/early 1980s) but by that time the train was rusting inside a wooden shed, and the shed roof had actually collapsed on the train in places. There was not much left to buy from the scrapper – but we saved what we could.

If you have a memory or photo to share of the train ride at the Turnpike Drive-In please feel free to drop me an email:

ray59 @ pa.metrocast.net (remove the spaces first)

thank you, Rick

mrchet on February 27, 2011 at 9:16 pm

Hi Guys. I remember riding that train. I remember the loop up by rt. 18 but I can’t remember how far back it went. I don’t think it made it all the way to tice’s lane. I’ve often wondered what ever happen it. The oldest I would have been was 10 or 12 I think. So it ran until at least 66 but more like 1970 or so. It sat in that little shed for the whole time that the drive in was open I guess. Thanks for the memory. Those tall thin steel cans of “yoohoo” and paper drinking straws. thanks again…..Gary

rivest266 on September 2, 2013 at 12:53 pm

Aerial photo uploaded showing the separate parking area for the indoor theatre.

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