Dayton Daily News from Dayton, Ohio on June 8, 2008 · 73
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Dayton Daily News from Dayton, Ohio · 73

Dayton, Ohio
Issue Date:
Sunday, June 8, 2008
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I Open-air theaters still dot area landscapes, providing the perfect nostalgic escape for the moviegoer in all of us i : ByDaveLarsen . ; Staff Writer A classic symbol of Americana, the drive-in movie theater turns 75 this weekend. Dayton's first drive-in theater opened in 1942 on Valley ; Street. By 1956, the Dayton area had more drive-in theaters per capita than any other city in the world. Despite the decline of open-air theaters in recent decades, Ohio remains among the top five drive-in theater states in the U.S. r The Dayton area still boasts three thriving outdoor theaters the Dixie ; Twin, Melody 49 and Skyborn drive-ins. "There's something special" about , drive-in theaters, said Philip Chakeres, president and chief executive officer of Chakeres Theatres. "When the weath-; er is good and you're looking up and you see the stars and the screen, it's just a nice, nice atmosphere. "I think at the same time, it's a cozy atmosphere because people are in their own cars." Chakeres Theatres of Springfield operates Clayton's Melody 49 Drive-In and Fairborn's Skyborn Drive-In. Founded in 1908 by Philip's grandfa- ther and great-uncles, the company also t owns drive-ins in Springfield, Celina, Lucasville and Wilmington, along with eight indoor theaters. The Dixie Twin Drive-in is operated by Levin Associates of Dayton. With their late brother Sam, twins Al i and Lou Levin were Dayton drive-in pio-: neers. The Levins, now 82, opened their first theater, the Sherwood Drive-in, in 1946. At one point, they owned 17 Midwest theaters, both indoor and outdoor. "The Levin brothers were quite an influence on the theaters in the area, said Curt Dalton, visual resources manager for Dayton History. "Not only drive-in theaters, but also bringing entertainment to people from indoor theaters, as well, like the McCook and the Kon-Tiki." Dalton is the author of the books "Greater Dayton Drive-In Movie Theaters" and "When Dayton Went to the Movies." The world's first outdoor theater, the Camden Drive-In, opened June 6, 1933, i. in Pennsauken, N.J. Greater Dayton drive-in theaters Chakeres Melody 49 Drive-In 7606 Pleasant-Plain Road, Clayton (937)833-5015 Dixie Twin Drive-In 6201 N. Dixie Drive, Harrison Twp. (937)890-5513 Skyborn Drive-In Ohio 235 and Haddix Road, Fairborn ; (937)878-5022 Dayton's first drive-in theater, originally called the Drive-in Theater and later renamed Dayton East Drive-in, was opened in 1942 by Herb Ochs. It was constructed during World War n, which was unusual because of the building materials shortage at the time, Dalton said. That proved to be so popular that a lot more drive-ins were built in the area," Dalton said. "If they hadn't allowed us to build during World War II, then more than likely it would have been a number of years after that before the first (local drive-in) would have been built because of all the houses being built right after World Warn." Drive-in theater operation "was a very good business at that time," Al Levin said. The Levins' Dayton-area drive-ins also included the Salem and Captain Kidd. Drive-ins peaked in popularity during the 1950s and '60s. They have experienced a number of cycles over the past seven decades. "It started out with strictly family business," Lou Levin said. "Families kwed it because they could pack the kids in the back seat and let them sleep while they watched the movies. "Then Hollywood started producing the teenage pictures, the beach pictures, and that did not interest the families. We lost the families." Theater chains started opening 10- to 20-screen multiplexes that offered a wide range of first-run features. "After having lost the families, we then kist the teenagers," Lou Levin said. "So business was on the descent from that J point on." Rising real-estate values impacted drive-in theaters, making their large properties too valuable for what often is a summer-only business. In April, Chakeres Theatres sold the Park Layne Drive- . In Theater in New Carlisle to represen- " tatives from Medway United Methodist " Church. The introduction of daylight-saving time also played a role in drive-in theaters' decline. "You couldnt start the picture until sometimes as late as 9:30," Lou Levin said. "That didn't interest anybody. But it seems to be making a come-back now." Nostalgia for drive-in theaters is helping to boost business, Lou Levin said. "There's a lot of curiosity among a lot i of young people. They want to go to a drive-in theater and see what it's all about Sort of a novelty." Theater owners also are adding second screens, as with the Dixie Twin and Melody 49, and showing first-run features. "We all broadcast over FM stereo," Chakeres said. "People have pretty extravagant stereos in their vehicles. That enhances a presentation quite a bit." All three Dayton drive-in theaters show double-features. Prices run about $3 less per adult than area multiplexes. Children ages 5-12 are admitted for $ 1 at Dixie, and for free at Melody 49 and Skyborn. "Sometimes we can put two first-runs together, so people are seeing two first-runs for the price of one," Chakeres said. "It is nice, because that's even a greater bargain." The Dixie Twin is planning further renovations, said Ryan Levin, Lou's son, vice president of Levin Associates. "In an industry where people are just trying to stay alive, we're really invigorating and investing money because, well, we've got a good product, they've got a great name, and there's no reason we can't recapture that ." More Online: See a Dixie Twin Drive-In photo gallery at Watch the original trailer for the Levin brothers' 1965 film "The Girls on the Beach" online at www, watchrvVax9u0rteyk

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