Cruise-In

7033 Glenn Highway,
Cambridge, OH 43725

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Cruise-In

Guernsey County’s first drive-in theatre to open was the Cruise-In Outdoor Theatre. They had a “soft” opening on May 2, 1949, screening 1947 the drama “Black Gold” with Anthony Quinn and Elsye Knox along with a cartoon, late news and short subjects. The Cruise-In’s Formal Dedication and Grand Opening Night was on July 13, 1949, screening the 1947 adventure/comedy “Slave Girl” with Yvonne DeCarlo, George Brent and Broderick Crawford. On the stage before the feature were Dallas Bond and his Musical Farmers with Evelyn – Steve and his accordion “Buttercup”. They were from Cambridge, Ohio, where they were a hillbilly and western band. They were also featured on the local radio station WLIE. During the grand opening, local dignitaries were present and an orchid was presented to the oldest woman attending the opening. This would not have happened in 2019. Free milk was given to children and a prize (a free bag of groceries) was given away to one of those in attendance.

The new airer was opened by Cy Francis Jr. and his brother, Frank Francis. It had car capacity of 350 cars with in-a-car speakers with RCA sound equipment. They started screening movies in three-dimensional (3-D) on May 31, 1953. Unfortunately at that time 3-D movies was a novelty process and died out around 1954. They were revived again from 1960’s to 2000’s and they are still being made for a limited market. When the Cruise-In reopened on March 30, 1955, they opened with new wider screen for screening CinemaScope movies. On June 5, 1956, Cy opened the Dizzy Land Amusement Park located beside the theatre. It featured trampolines, train rides, small roller coaster, merry-go-round, water boat ride, tractor ride and other amusements for the kids. Drive-in operators realized years ago to make it in the drive-in theatre business you need more than just screening movies. They would feature stage shows before the movies started, on screen contests like WAHOO, bumper strip night, kiddyland rides and other give away items. It helped to get the kids and family’s to come back to the drive-in theatre.

Cy Francis was quite the businessman in addition to operating the Cruise-In. In April of 1958, he was the local distributor for the Rusco Window and Door Co. with an office at the Cruise-In. In the late 1950’s and 1960’s, Cy Francis was operating a lounge in downtown Cambridge, called the Sahara. It featured food, dancing and entertainment. In May of 1969, he remodeled an old barn that was beside the Cruise-In and started Golfland. It featured a driving range, miniature golf, par 3 golf course, snack bar, recreation/amusement room and sales of golfing equipment. Eventually Francis remodeled the second story of the Golfland barn into The Barn Theatre for performing stage plays. An exciting thing happened in May of 1969, the Cruise-In was leased to Leonard L. Mishkind (dba General Theatres Cleveland). In addition Norman M. Barr would be named the president of General Theatres Management Co. They would be the operators of the Cruise-In until the end. Cy Francis died in March of 1980. The Cruise-In screened its last show in September of 1986. On May 3, 1987, Gladys Francis held an auction of the drive-in facilities and equipment, including 200 in-a-car speakers. The Cruise-In and Golfland sat empty for a while until it was all demolished. All of the 76.464 acres was sold for $150,000 to the Pritchard-Laughlin Civic Center Inc. It is now the Pritchard-Laughlin Civic Center which was opened in 1992. When people talk about the Cambridge Cruise-In and Cy Francis they would say he was a first class showman.

Contributed by Randy Studer
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