Ever since the first drive-in was open in 1933 in Camden, New Jersey, people have enjoyed being able to sit in their own car to watch a show. The fine folks of Oak Hill, West Virginia are no different. During the summer of 1952, Oak Hillians (I made that up, thank you very much) drove to the Skyline Drive In in droves (see what I did there?)
In this blog, we cover a little history of the theater, see a sampling of the ads for that first summer of shows (along with clips of each) and include as many articles as I could find in the archives.
Do you have stories from seeing movies there? I would love to hear them! What was your favorite movie seen there?
I hope you enjoy the blog!
I was able to finally find the ad for the Grand Opening of the Skyline Drive In. The date of their first movie was Friday, July 11, 1952!
Although a little blurry, I am always amazed when YouTube gives us a clip!
According to Cinema Treasures: The Skyline Drive-In launched July 11, 1952 with the film, “Three Little Girls in Blue” on the east end of Oak Hill. It was an engineering feat to get the theatre and its lot constructed with the mountainous terrain. The Skyline Drive-In was part of the Newbold Keesling Circuit. The theatre moved to adult content and was raided for gambling in 1969 which may have been the end of the ozoner’s lifecycle though it may have continued without advertising post 1969.
Note from Chelle: I believe the author of the above notation on Cinema Treasures might have mistaken the Drive-In theater for the eatery on Hilltop. Cannot confirm, but maybe?
Sample of movie ads and trailers for Skyline Drive In (1953)
Putting together this list, I cannot help but feel the need to binge watch every Abbott and Costello movie ever made. I would wash that down with a good Western and follow it up with a war movie!
Also, how do we know the Redhead associated with the Cowboy was indeed a redhead if the movie is in black and white??
Clippings and articles on Skyline Drive In 1953:
In 1953, we see that the advertisements have changed to include photo clips from the movie. The viewings also include a cartoon and the news.
Clippings and articles on Skyline Drive In 1954:
They started their 1954 season on March 13th with a free show for everyone!
1958 and newer:
I was unable to find clippings for 1955-1957. However, the first one I came across for the summer of 1958 was something!
IMDb synopsis: In sunny St. Tropez, a young sexpot loves one brother but marries the other. – The movie stars bombshell Bridget Bardot. In 1968, the film rating system began to provide parents with the information needed to determine if a film is age appropriate. It might be that this would have been a Rated R movie, had those ratings been in place.
I question if they got into trouble for showing this film as looking at the ads in Oct 1958, the other drive-ins are still active but there are no listings for Skyline. There is a noticeable shift to “adults only” films however. The times were changing.
I would like to say also, this does not mean there were not shows but maybe they did not advertise for them or I did not find the advertisements.
Skyline Drive-In data from 1959 and later:
Checking 1959-63 drive-in ads in the Beckley papers – no Skyline Drive-In ads. Then I found a 1964 ad for fireworks and John Wayne! But that would be the only 1964 ad found.
October 26, 1966 I found an article that noted the owners of establishments with federal gaming and wagering stamps. It notes Skyline Drive-In at Hilltop, so I am assuming this means the eatery, not the drive-in theater.
I scrolled through a TON of clips for Skyline Drive in Beckley, the King Tut Drive-In in Beckley and a mobile home dealer on Skyline Drive also in Beckley. The newspapers seemed to have forgotten that old Drive-In over in the East End of Oak Hill. Well, until… 1968 when things picked back up with movies other than those only for adults.
I am just going to say right now, that movie with all those stars AND Loretta Lynn…. Imma gonna find that one to watch! It gave us songs from Waylon Jennings like Good Hearted Woman and I’m A Ramblin’ Man!
We know that the demise of the Skyline Drive-In Theater came through the sell of the property for the development of the Heck’s Dept Store.
I found an article, mentioning a date of July 31, 1971 in it is noted the opening of Heck’s at the East End Plaza. As the Drive-In was located in East End Oak Hill, I assume that this would be the one in question. But if I learned nothing else from junior year English, I DID learn to assume makes an ASS of U and ME.
Heck’s Department Store, a chain of West Virginia based discount department stores, was founded by Boone County natives and businessmen Fred Haddad, Tom Ellis, and Lester Ellis and wholesale distributor Douglas Cook. The Heck’s name was a combination of the names Haddad, Ellis and Cook. Haddad served as President, Lester Ellis was Vice-President, and Tom Ellis was Secretary-Treasurer.
And, as promised, here is your bag of popcorn!