Oak Hill WV: Skyline Drive In (Theater)

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!

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Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
26 Jun 1969, Thu  •  Page 12

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!

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Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
11 Jul 1952, Fri  •  Page 2

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??

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Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
23 Jul 1952, Wed  •  Page 5
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Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
25 Jul 1952, Fri  •  Page 11
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Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
05 Aug 1952, Tue  •  Page 2
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Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
07 Aug 1952, Thu  •  Page 8
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Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
08 Aug 1952, Fri  •  Page 11
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Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
13 Aug 1952, Wed  •  Page 2
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Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
18 Aug 1952, Mon  •  Page 2
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Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
29 Aug 1952, Fri  •  Page 15
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Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
10 Sep 1952, Wed  •  Page 8
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Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
18 Sep 1952, Thu  •  Page 10
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Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
01 Oct 1952, Wed  •  Page 6
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Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
17 Oct 1952, Fri  •  Page 2
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Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
25 Oct 1952, Sat  •  Page 2
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Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
31 Oct 1952, Fri  •  Page 11
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Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
03 Nov 1952, Mon  •  Page 2
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Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
14 Nov 1952, Fri  •  Page 15
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Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
15 Nov 1952, Sat  •  Page 2

Clippings and articles on Skyline Drive In 1953:

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Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
31 Mar 1953, Tue  •  Page 2

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.

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Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
02 Apr 1953, Thu  •  Page 8
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Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
13 Apr 1953, Mon  •  Page 2
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Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
16 Apr 1953, Thu  •  Page 11
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Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
04 May 1953, Mon  •  Page 8
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Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
26 May 1953, Tue  •  Page 2
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Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
26 Jun 1953, Fri  •  Page 22
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Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
10 Aug 1953, Mon  •  Page 5
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Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
26 Aug 1953, Wed  •  Page 2
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Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
10 Oct 1953, Sat  •  Page 9
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Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
24 Oct 1953, Sat  •  Page 2
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Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
13 Nov 1953, Fri  •  Page 19

Clippings and articles on Skyline Drive In 1954:

They started their 1954 season on March 13th with a free show for everyone!

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Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
06 Apr 1954, Tue  •  Page 6

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!

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Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
10 Jun 1958, Tue  •  Page 6

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.

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Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
01 Jul 1964, Wed  •  Page 2

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.

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Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
26 Oct 1966, Wed  •  Page 9

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.

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Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
12 Jul 1968, Fri  •  Page 3
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Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
22 Jul 1968, Mon  •  Page 9
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Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
26 Jul 1968, Fri  •  Page 16

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!

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Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
01 Aug 1968, Thu  •  Page 3
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Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
23 Aug 1968, Fri  •  Page 3
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Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
04 Oct 1968, Fri  •  Page 2
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Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
18 Oct 1968, Fri  •  Page 9
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Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
04 Apr 1969, Fri  •  Page 3
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Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
23 May 1969, Fri  •  Page 14
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Beckley Post-Herald The Raleigh Register
Beckley, West Virginia
22 Jun 1969, Sun  •  Page 20
Beckley Post-Herald The Raleigh Register
Beckley, West Virginia
02 Aug 1969, Sat  •  Page 23
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Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
16 Jul 1969, Wed  •  Page 3

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!

Fresh Popcorn Buttered and Hot MDF Wall Plaque

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