Champaign Auto Theatre

141 Ohio 296,
Urbana, OH 43078

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Champaign Auto Theatre

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On August 12, 1950, Guy and Joe Spangler opened up the Salem Auto Theatre. One interesting note is that before the auto theatre opened in August, Spangler was going to name it the Urbana Auto Theatre. The auto theatre could park 400 cars on its ramps. The steel screen tower was 50 ft. x 50 ft. with RCA sound and projection equipment. Total cost for it was $70,000. Theatre Owners Corporation (TOC) from Cincinnati, Ohio, was the booking and buying agency from 1953 to 1970. In 1960, Spangler built a 1/3 mile track with an asphalt top for racing go carts. He wanted to organize a go cart club in the area and have races on Sunday afternoons.

After 20 years of successfully owning/operating the auto theatre, Guy Spangler sold the Salem Auto Theatre to Paul Enright from Cincinnati, Ohio, and Larry Thomas. They renamed it to the Champaign Auto Theatre in April of 1970. In 1980 Chakeres Theatres bought the drive-in and invested $25,000 into the drive-in with new projection equipment, a new concession stand and remodeled the restroom facilities. They operated it until the end of season in 1986 and it closed for good. Norm Levinson who was the head film buyer for Chakeres Theatres said that he does not see it ever re-opening again. “It simply wasn’t profitable anymore. The land is worth more than the drive-in itself". The property was sold and turned back into farmland.

Contributed by Randy Studer
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