Skyline Auto Theatre

3401 Brecksville Road,
Richfield, OH 44286

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Skyline Auto Theatre

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The history of the Skyline Auto Theatre goes back to 1957 when James J. Barton, who had served three terms in the Ohio House of Representitives, was also a real estate developer and an auto dealer, wanted to open a drive-in theatre. Barton had acquired a long-term lease on the Charles B. MaFann Dairy Farm. Barton tried to get a building permit to build a drive-in theatre and needed to get 39 acres rezoned and it was turned down. In 1960, he resubmitted plans again for building a recreation center which included a drive-in theatre on the property. It was to be named West Richfield Amusement and Recreation Center. In 1961, the Zoning Commiission approved the building of the kiddieland, drive-in theatre, swimming pool and tennis courts to be built. He also wanted to build a one mile long sports car track and a quarter mile long midget car track on the inside of the one mile track, but the race track got disapproved.

After all the delays, the Skyline Auto Theatre was finally built and opened May 1, 1965, screening the 1964 comedy/drama “Ride the Wild Surf” with Fabian, Shelly Fabares, Peter Brown, Tab Hunter & Barbara Eden. Singing duo Jan & Dean both were scheduled to appear in ther film, supporting Fabian, who had been borrowed from 20th Century Fox. Jan & Dean were pulled by Columbia Pictures after Dean’s friend, Barry Keenan, became involved in the kidnapping of Frank Sinatra Jr. They were replaced by Tab Hunter & Peter Brown. The title song “Ride the Wild Surf” was written by Jan Berry, Brian Wilson & Roger Christian. It was recorded by Jan & Dean becoming a Top 20 national hit for them. The second feature was the 1964 drama “The New Interns” with Michael Callan, Dean Jones & Telly Savalas.

Between the years 1967 and 1975, Barton and township zoning officers were at odds several times because of his advertising signs for the drive-in. Also with the renaming of old Route 21, aka Cleveland-Massillon Road, aka Brecksville Road causing so much confusion by business owners or operators of business on the road. In June of 1969, the Skyline Auto Theatre was leased to Broadview Outdoor Theatre Inc.

The Skyline Auto Theatre was closed for good at the end of the season in 1978. In looking at aerial maps and doing a site survey, Barton’s plans for a recreational center never got completed. The only thing that got built was the drive-in. In looking at aerials and the layout of the drive-in, the back half of the auto theatre was going to be where the West Richfield Amusement and Recreation Center was going to be built. The auto theatre’s screen tower got demolished and the only thing left is the concession stand which was remodeled into offices.

Tom McGill reminisces: I used to see the back of the screen on the eastern end of the property when traveling on the interchange from Interstate 77 to Interstate 271. The back of the scree had large white letter that said SKYLINE.

Contributed by Randy Studer, Tom McGill
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