Knox Auto Theatre
1201 Newark Road,
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For many decades, the Knox Auto Theatre was part of the Mount Vernon community in Knox County providing fun entertainment for its residents and their families watching movies under the stars. When it opened it was the first and only ozoner in Knox County, OH. The grand opening was on June 17, 1948, screening the 1947 western “Gun Fighters” with Randolph Scott, Barbara Britton and Dorothy Hart. In addition it featured the Three Stooges in “Fright Night” from 1947 and a Bugs Bunny cartoon. For the grand opening a new Ford car with a V-8 engine was displayed at the theatre. The airer was opened by Ronald W. Sturgess and W. H Bachert Jr. (dba B & S Theatres). Ronald W. Sturgess was the former manager of the Star Theatre in Coshocton, OH, and W. H. Bachert Jr. was a business man from Coshocton, OH. Co-Op Theatres of Cleveland, Ohio was the buying and booking agency in the beginning. It had a car capacity of 300 cars with in-a-car-speakers and featured a full service “snackateria” aka the concession stand. The screen was 58 feet high and screening movies on a 50 ft. x 38 ½ ft. screen. When the theatre reopened for the 1955 season it had widened the screen for screening CinemaScope movies. In the 1970’s, I believe, the screen tower was replaced with a new steel screen tower.
In the 1970’s, Richard and Mary Strugess took over the family run Knox Auto Theatre from his father, Ronald W. Strugess. Hugh Grubaugh, who worked at the Knox Auto Theatre as a projectionist in the summer of 1979 for three months, remembers one of the things Richard instituted. After the last movie was done, we would load up the first two reels of the first movie and show them again. That was for the people that showed up late and didn’t see the two first parts of the first movie. Going into the 1970-1980’s with all the big megaplex cinemas opening up it was getting harder to sustain the Knox Auto Theatre. I did wonder why Sturgess never twined the theatre so they would be to be able to screen more movies.
The Knox Auto Theatre screened its last movies on September 4, 1988. The last movies to be screened were “Bambi” and “Big Business”. The Knox Auto Theatre was closed and demolished. All the equipment was sold including 280 speakers for ten bucks apiece. The 22.6 acres tract was sold to the Mount Vernon/Knox County Area Development Foundation. They in turn sold it to the Wenco Company (now Jeld-Wen Windows and Doors) which is next door to the drive-in so they could expand their factory. The marquee for the auto theatre is now sitting at the Knox County Historical Society waiting to be restored back to its former glory.
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