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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The Turnpike Drive-In was opened March 19, 1958 with Glenn Ford in “The Cowboy” and Ralph Meeker in “Battle Shock”. On October 20, 1963 a 1,000-seat indoor theatre was opened. Until 1968, the Turnpike was a combination drive-in, indoor theatre, with double features showing on a reverse schedule. The indoor theatre was split from drive-in in 1969 and opened with road show of “Hello Dolly”. The indoor theatre was twinned on March 3, 1978. 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-1960’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 1970’s.

Contributed by Gregg Thompson

Recent comments (view all 14 comments)

VincentPrice on October 11, 2008 at 6:18 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 9:55 am

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

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 10, 2010 at 4:14 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 16, 2010 at 12:52 am

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 28, 2011 at 12:16 am

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 3:53 pm

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

rivest266 on October 22, 2016 at 3:07 pm

This opened on March 19th, 1958. I uploaded the grand opening ad in the photo section.

rivest266 on October 22, 2016 at 4:01 pm

November 20th, 1963 grand opening ad for the indoor theatre also in the photo section. The indoor theatre seated 1,000 and the drive-in had room for 1,600 cars. Must had up to 5,000 people on a busy night.

rivest266 on October 23, 2016 at 1:23 pm

March 3rd, 1978 grand opening ad for the indoor twin cinema in the photo section.

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