Tennant Drive-In

Peko Road,
Tennant Creek, NT 0860

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Tennant Drive-In

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Bob Burton, the exhibitor from the Pioneer Open Air Theatre opened the Tennant Drive-In in 1972. It was closed in 1984.

Contributed by David Coppock

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davidcoppock
davidcoppock on March 1, 2018 at 4:52 am

The drive-in opened in 1972.

film
film on March 9, 2018 at 11:07 am

Greg Lynch Says – THE TENNANT DRIVE IN, THEATRE – William Cecil (Bill) Burton was born near Winton in Qld, working as a projectionist with a traveling picture show. He arrived in Tennant Creek during the middle 40’s and almost immediately began establishing his reputation as the local “ Picture Show Man ”. The long running Pioneer Open Air Theatre in Tennant Creek is his Legacy & Epitaph. Bill ran the theatre until his death in Nov 1968, leaving his family to carry on in the general day by day running of the business. Then with much foresight, Bill’s son, Robert Joseph (Bob) Burton carried forward his fathers considerable endowment, and built The Tennant Drive In Theatre located in Peko Road..The new drive In opened in 1972 with a capacity of 250 cars and a Japanese projection plant. This had the result of reducing attendance’s at the Pioneer Open Air, finally forcing it’s closure in 1974. The Tennant Drive In Theatre flourished and the crowds flocked in. The canteen was a single serve hatch and the ticket box was located between two lanes. Originally it was pay per person, then it changed to admission by car load, due to cheeky patrons being sprung in the car boots. The main feature film was shown first to cater for early risers, while the credits on the 2nd movie were cut short to prevent patrons from driving off with the speaker still attached to the car…. Neil Fairhead recently published that he had helped Bob Burton at the drive in by creating flyers, putting up posters, and doing the adverts for the Tennant Times newspaper, collecting the movie reels from the plane, buying goods for the canteen and working in the projection box. We had seven billboards around the town and every Sunday at midnight we would go around town and paste the posters up. while each week we would also drive the perimeter and fix several holes cut into the chain mail fence. Warrego Drive In 1979 – 1984. – In 1979 Bob Burton purchased an open-air walk-in theatre built by Jim Hunt on the Warrego mine site. Bob developed a 60 car drive-in theatre with individual car window speakers, plus a covered seated area. Costs were saved by switching films between the two theatres. As part of the deal Jim Hunt stayed on as projectionist ( Fred McKinley later replaced him ). The Warrego Drive-In was equipped with Cummings and Wilson projectors, Raycophone (model CP10) soundheads with Westrex carbon-arc lamphouses. Ann Wilson recently published – …“Great picture theatre at Warrego. The speakers were originally on the side of the projection box and you could hear most of the movie throughout Warrego. Great news when we actually got the speakers for the cars installed. Sorry to say I was one of the people that forgot to put the speaker back and ripped it out. The night the projection box caught fire was catastrophic, we were out of movies for a few weeks”. During the early 80’s video stores opened in Tennant Creek, this along with television caused a major drop in the available picture going public. The Tennant & Warrego Drive-In theatres closed in 1984. The Tennant Drive In had been operating for twelve years. Equipment and buildings were left after the final screening, and the property sold to local Frank Martino. Video Tape, Television and a changing Tennant Creek had reduced attendances dramatically … Bob sold up ( the era had finished and the screens were dark ) and eventually moved to Darwin. ..EXTRA : Tennant Creek, Electrician. Mike Nash confirms that when he arrived in Tennant Creek during the middle 80’s, the old drive in theatre in Peko Road was closed and over grown, but with the screen still standing … I am once again indebted to local Tennant Creek identity & historian, Pam Hodges and her web site – “ For Tennant Creekers – Tennant Creek’s Past and Present ” and for her substantial contribution to this history of “ The Tennant & Warrego Drive In Theatre’s.” – Acknowledgment : Pam Hodges : go to http://fortennantcreekers.com/places/buildings/picture-theatres/ – Bob Burton and the memory of Bill Burton – Neil Fairhead – Ann Wilson & Mike Nash …

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