Archive | Outdoor Movie History

In Memory of ‘Outdoor Movie Pioneer’ Anthony Rudman

Anthony Rudman Sr.

Tony Rudman, founder of Utah’s Westates Theatres chain, has died. He was 84.

The cinema chain was once the largest in the West and continues to operate more than 70 screens in four states.

Rudman died Aug. 6, six days short of his 85th birthday, after suffering a fall outside his home, said his son, T.J. Rudman.

“He’s a self-made man, and extremely successful, and he worked very, very hard,” the younger Rudman said of his father.

Rudman was born Aug. 12, 1925, in Scofield, Utah. He started working at age 12, herding sheep. He made enough money to pay for his own tuition at Wasatch Academy when he was 15.

At 17, he enlisted with four other Carbon County boys in the United States Marine Corps. They served in the Pacific in World War II, in the first wave of troops in Tarawa and Saipan. Rudman was wounded, taking shell fragments in his legs that remained for the rest of his life. He was the only one of that Carbon County group to survive the war.

Rudman got into the movie business in the 1950s as a film runner, getting paid $25 a week. He then worked as a film buyer for RKO Pictures and later started his own film buying and booking service. In 1958, he bought his first theater, the Davis Drive-In in Layton.

Among the theaters Rudman had a hand in opening were the Water Gardens Cinema in Pleasant Grove, the Tooele Cinema 6 in Tooele and the now-defunct Trolley Theatres and Trolley Corners multiplexes near downtown Salt Lake City.

The Westates chain now operates the Holladay Cinema 6 in Salt Lake City, the Tooele theater, three multiplexes in Logan, two in Cedar City and five in St. George — as well as theaters in Page, Ariz., Elko and Mesquite, Nev., and Montpelier, Idaho.

Rudman was a hands-on business owner. “He knew every nail, he knew every projector, he knew every sound system,” his son said. “He never missed a paycheck, never missed paying one of his employees.”

Rudman married Shirley Ernstsen in 1946, and they had two children: Shonnie Kay and Tony Jay. Shirley died in 1964.

Besides his children, Rudman is survived by eight grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren, his longtime companion Leone Clyde, and his only sibling, his brother Joseph Rudman.

A memorial service is set for 9 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 12, what would have been his 85th birthday, at the Holladay Cinema 6, 1945 E. Murray-Holladay Road (4795 South), Salt Lake City. A graveside service is scheduled for noon at Wasatch Lawn Memorial Park, 3401 S. Highland Drive, Salt Lake City.


Tribute to John Pente and the Little Italy Open Air Film Festival

John Pente ant the Little Italy Film FestivalJohn Pente lived his entire life within a one-block radius in Little Italy. He worked as a machinist for Western Electric and devoted himself to his family, his neighborhood and his church, St. Leo’s.

But in 1999, he allowed the community promoters of an open-air film festival to install a projector in his grown-up sons’ old bedroom. By the time Mr. Pente died on Monday, at 100, this simple act of generosity had made him “Little Italy’s ambassador to the world.”

Little Italy’s Open Air Film Festival didn’t just heal a rift that had developed between area restaurant owners and residents. It became a celebration of movies and community that attracted tourists to the corner of High and Stiles streets and set an example for neighborhoods around the world.

“He’s been so well known and so well acknowledged for his kindness and his hospitality and just being a simple man who lived a simple life. He never achieved any kind of greatness, but in his own small way, he did remarkable things,” his older son, Joseph, said Tuesday.

The festival provided him with a long life’s perfect closing act. Joseph Pente continued, “He was always there to contribute: to neighbors, to the church, to the school. He did it without any fanfare, and he did it well. … He welcomed people into his home of all colors, all races, male or female.” It didn’t matter whether they were distinguished Italian jurists or a woman who needed a phone to call for jumper cables. They savored his hospitality and often became friends for life.

When he was 89, Mr. Pente was only hoping to do his bit for his community when he agreed to have movies projected on summer nights from his third-floor window. In 1999, nothing but white space filled the outer wall of the Ciao Bella restaurant where Little Italy’s restaurateurs had hoped to install a 15-by-20-foot mural on a billboard facing the Da Mimmo’s restaurant parking lot.

The Little Italy Owners and Residents Association protested, fearing gaudy billboards. The Little Italy Restaurant Association fired back that the neighborhood had to be commercial to stay alive. The mural was shot down, and the space stayed blank for months. At a neighborhood association meeting in 1999, one frustrated restaurateur brainstormed, “I think we should just show movies on it, ’cause it looks like a drive-in.”

Read the rest of the story in the Baltimore Sun.


Memphis, Tennessee: Summer Drive-In Has an Outdoor Movie History in Memphis, Tennesse

Photo Credit: Brad Luttrell/The Commercial Appeal

Photo Credit: Brad Luttrell/The Commercial Appeal

Light from the screens dances off the roofs of the scattered cars and sound echoes from auto stereo speakers. Summer Drive-In in Memphis, Tennessee is one of the last remaining drive-in movie theaters in the South. But where most of these outdoor movie theaters have dwindled away, Summer Drive-In continues to be one of the more beloved Memphis landmarks, and carries with it a colorful history of outdoor cinema.

James Lloyd has been a Malco Theaters (who owns Summer Drive-In) employee for 43 years, and has a passion for outdoor film.

“I been around the theater business practically all my life,” said Lloyd, who was a 14-year-old Arkansas farm boy when he made his first money at the movies by pushing a popcorn cart between the rows of cars at the old Starvue Drive-In in Blytheville (Memphis Commercial Appeal).

Lloyd was there when the Summer Drive-In first opened, on Sept. 1, 1966. The outdoor movie theater was boasted to be one of the most modern theaters of its time. Back then, drive-ins were huge; it was a part of Americana. They would screen B-movies or second-run films, but people continued to come in droves. They were there for the movie, yes, but there was something undeniably attractive about watching a movie under the stars. Something magical, and unique. Of course, the semi-private romance of the cars drew many a young couple to open air cinemas as well.

Lloyd actually lives at the Summer Drive-In, in a small apartment build alongside the projection room. When drive-ins where in their heyday, it was common to build living quarters alongside the screens, as theater managers usually worked long hours. In those days, outdoor movie theaters were built in huge fields with very little nearby in the way of buildings or lights, and the stars created a sparking canopy over the drive-in.
As we all know, most of the drive-ins that were once so popular have now disappeared. Though there has been some decline in popular interest, a large reason behind the closings was due to rising real estate values. Much of that land has now been turned into malls, housing developments, and swap meets.

For those drive-ins still remaining, changes have been made, but many are for the better. Most now play first-run blockbusters instead of the B-movies they used to play. Today, Lloyd can watch Johnny Depp in “Public Enemies” from one of his apartment windows, and Harry Potter from another. Movie-goers have their choice of popular films with three different outdoor movie screens, and nights with double or even triple-features.
On weekends the Summer Drive-In draws 1,600 cars who utilize FM radios for audio to the films, instead of the old-fashioned speakers that hang on car windows.

Across the hallway from the doorway to Lloyd’s apartment is the Summer projection room. Using incredibly bright light bulbs of 6,000 to 7,000 watts each, the projectors “throw” the image hundreds of feet through the air; Screen 3, the most distant (and largest, at 118-by-54 feet), is 730 feet from the booth.

The drive-in originally opened 365 days a year, but is now only open during the summer, and then Fridays and Saturdays the rest of the year. Admission is $7 a person, but kids under 10 are free, so the Summer Drive-In is a popular hot spot for family-friendly entertainment. You see less passionate teenagers and more carloads of kids.

Some outdoor movie attendees are long-time fans. There are people who used to come to the drive-in as teenagers, and now they’re bringing their kids. Others are newer movie-goers. Lloyd’s grandchildren love visiting their Grandpa; Lloyd piles them in his old Buick and they drive a few hundred feet to park in front of a giant screen and watch a movie together.

Clint Pratt, 38, and his daughters, Taylor, 11, and Shea, 8, were making their first trip to the drive-in since the Pratts moved here from Orlando 11 years ago.

“I thought it was closed down,” he said, until he learned differently from a friend. “I think it’s really cool,” said Taylor, sitting on the open tailgate of the family’s Chevrolet S-10 Blazer, parked so the rear of the vehicle faced the screen.

“It’s paying its way,” Lloyd said of the Summer. He said the drive-in is here to stay, despite some efforts by Malco in recent years to sell the land.


Cinema in Qatar Began with Outdoor Movies: A Documentary Marks the Growth of Cinema in Qatar

Outdoor Movies Featured in Documentary in QatarIntroduced in Qatar in the 1950s and initially confused with witchcraft, the history of motion picture, which began on big outdoor movie screens before moving into cinema halls, is being showcased by a leading Qatari filmmaker in a new documentary, marking the growth of movie mania in the country.

“The motion picture was introduced to the Qatari community by British and other foreign oil companies,” Hafiz Ali recalled in an interview with Gulf Times. Lacking any entertainment in the desert during the 1950s, these companies installed big outdoor cinema screens and seats, where they displayed foreign movies for the locals working with them.

At that time, there were no cinemas or television. The make-shift open air cinema was is some locations the only exposure to films. Some of the locals thought that these pictures in motion were witchcraft.

However, soon they began to like this entertainment and sought Lebanese and Egyptian movies for private screening in private homes and sports clubs. Subsequently, a competition for cultural performances emerged, among the clubs. Local businessmen, who realised the commercial potential established the Gulf and Doha cinemas in the 1970s.

Ali recalled that the introduction of the television in Qatar during this period marked the turning point for cinema in Qatar. “The cinema audience began to dramatically decline with the onset of the satellite TV channels and internet.

Outdoor Movies in Qatar“Cinemas were filled with viewers again, only in 1998, with the blockbuster The Titanic,” he stated.

Ali pointed out that Titanic changed perceptions regarding cinema, which was considered an entertainment form for the men in the Qatari society. “Cinema became a family and social practice”, he added. The film director observed that the documentary’s topic and scenario writer, Abdulrahman Mohsen, Qatar Cinema and Film Distribution Company’s manager, has brought up the issue, when the British Council contacted various Qatari artistes, in the framework of a photography and video project about Qatar. However, the British Council shifted the project to a documentary, after inspecting the artistes’ works. It anticipated success for the combination of Mohsen’s scenario and Ali’s filmmaking skills.

Ali explained that the 27-minute film is a combination of archived material, interviews with early players in cinema’s beginnings in Qatar, shooting scenes and actors. The Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage, as well as Jazeera Children’s Channel, Qatar Cinema Company and Qatar TV participated along with British Council in funding the film.

He said that it would be screened during the celebration of Doha Arab cultural capital next year. Answering a question about the possibility of making films tackling issues modern Qatari society’s interaction with the multicultural expatriate community, Ali observed that Qatar needs to build up a record of its historical and traditional features before taking any step in that direction. Ali revealed that the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage is in the process of establishing a club for Qatari cinema in an effort to promote Doha as the Arab Cultural Capital next year. He said that a delay marked Qatar’s catch-up with other Gulf countries’ film industry, however, the cinema club is to pave the way for the industry.

Source: “New documentary explores cinema’s impact in Qatar” Ourouba Hussein -Gulf Times. Read full article at:


Wall Township, New Jersey: World's First Fly-in Movie Theater

Fly-In Movies … Interesting Idea, But Did It Fly?

Outdoor Movies in Wall Township, New JerseyEd Brown Jr., a former Navy pilot, opens the first drive-in, fly-in movie theater. There’s room for 500 cars and 25 small planes.

The drive-in movie theater itself was still something of a novelty when Brown hit on the idea in 1948 of accommodating moviegoers arriving by private plane, another relatively new phenomenon in American life. He opened his fly-in theater on some land near Wall Township, New Jersey, which included an adjoining airfield. Planes would land at the field, then taxi over to the theater and fan out behind the cars. When the evening’s feature ended, a jeep was provided to tow the planes back to the airfield.

Like conventional drive-ins, Brown’s fly-in included a concession stand (where the real money was made), restrooms and plenty of privacy for, umm, watching the movie.

Brown’s theater was a novelty in a larger industry that was already enjoying a growth spurt. The first drive-in theater opened in June 1933, also in New Jersey, and by 1948 there were 820 of them nationwide. The real boom came in the ’50s, though, and by 1958 the number of theaters nationwide had surpassed 4,000. It was all downhill after that, though, with a steady decline during the 1960s and ’70s. By the end of the 1980’s, the number of drive-in theaters operating in the United States had dropped to under 1,000. The number stands at around 375 today.

Even during the drive-in’s heyday, though, the fly-in idea never really took off. It was necessarily limited, owing both to the scarcity of available land and the fact that relatively few people owned their own planes. Still, there were other fly-in, drive-in theaters around. In fact, Brown opened a second one — Fly-in Drive-In #2 — on New Jersey Route 72 in Manahawkin. He operated a conventional drive-in theater, too, making him something of a drive-in mogul.

There are no drive-in moguls today. The theaters that remain exist either in remote areas or as nostalgic reminders of simpler times. In order to scoop up as much money as possible, the operators of most surviving drive-ins make the space available during daylight hours for other uses, notably flea markets.

The 2000s have seen the modest rise of so-called guerrilla drive-ins, utilizing updated technology including LCD projectors and micro-radio transmitters to set up “theaters” in vacant parking lots and other open spaces. But the drive-in theater of yore — with its greasy food, lousy sound quality and cute, squealing girls in angora sweaters — continues its long, slow fade into the mists of time.



War Veteran, Outdoor Cinema Pioneer

Jim Maloy (right). Photo by Gazette: David Bradford

Jim Maloy (right). Photo by Gazette: David Bradford

Jim Maloy of Oak Hill, Texas, has been enamored with the world of outdoor cinema since he was a child. From a part-time job at a drive-in, to military service in WWII, to his career back in the US, outdoor movies have always played an important role in his life. His service to his country and community through the use of outdoor cinema led to the feature article in the Oak Hill Gazette, featured below. He was a pioneer for outdoor movies in the military, and now military bases around the world entertain and inspire troops and their families with movies under the stars.

Jim Maloy was born in 1922 and grew up in Austin. From early adolescence he nurtured a burning interest in cinema and theater projection. He was the kid in middle school whom the teacher asked to run the science-film projector. When the school purchased a fancy new projector system, he was the kid who stayed after school to help the salesman install it (and to pepper the salesman with eager questions). Maloy’s interest convinced the salesman to make him a part-time assistant; they traveled a five-day circuit showing outdoor films in small towns that lacked a theater. Maloy was 14 years old.

In high school he worked at the local drive-in movie theater. He hung around the projection booth as much as possible in order to learn the technicalities of the outdoor movie business, but was happy just to be able to watch movies under the stars night after night.

Maloy’s progression through the local cinematic ranks was delayed by the outbreak of World War II. Like many men during this time, Maloy volunteered for military service, and in 1942 he was transferred to Fort Warren, Wyoming. When his audio-visual skills were discovered, he was assigned to a regimental theater on base, where he showed training and entertainment films from 7 A.M. until after 8 P.M. After nearly a year, Maloy was promoted to corporal and moved to a more prominent base theater, and soon his duties included working live shows. There, Maloy met Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Ginger Rogers, Phil Silvers, and comedian Edgar Kennedy (one of the original Keystone Cops).

In 1943, Maloy’s unit boarded an Atlantic convoy that docked in Casablanca after a nine-day journey. Eventually arriving in Bizerte, Tunisia, without a duty assignment, Maloy sat around for two or three days, but this did not suit his temperament. Across the parade grounds from his barracks he saw a sign that read, “Special Services Section.”

Maloy entered this building, introduced himself to the dumbfounded major on duty, and modestly suggested that his skills might be of some use to this unit. The major readily agreed. Maloy got his transfer orders the next day, and soon he was driving a jeep loaded with projectors, a folding screen, a generator, and electrical cable. With this equipment Maloy ran outdoor cinema shows for the troops seven nights a week. His traveling outdoor movies were an important boost of morale for the troops, and it was Maloy’s dream assignment.

As the Allied troops marched up Italy’s boot in support of the Normandy invasion, Maloy’s unit followed close behind. Near the close of the war, he returned to Austin and married (and is still married to) an attractive redhead named Edna. Soon after the war ended, he quickly established himself in projection rooms around town.

The love for cinema that has defined large portions of Maloy’s life is obvious. Two major threads run through Maloy’s narrative: his service to his country and his love of cinema.

Source: “Film professional recounts six decades behind the projector” by David Bradford -Oak Hill Gazette. Read full article at:


Jurong, Singapore: Outdoor Movies at Singapore's Only Drive-In Outdoor Cinema

Outdoor Movies at Singapore's Drive-In Theater in JurongSingapore’s only open-air drive-in cinema, the Jurong Drive-in, was opened by the then Minister of Culture, Jek Yuen Thong, on 14 July 1971. The brainchild and pride of Cathay Organisation, it was located at Yuan Ching Road, next to the Japanese Gardens. Built on a 5.6 ha site leased from the Jurong Town Corporation (JTC), the cinema could accommodate 900 cars and an additional 300 people in its walk-in gallery for outdoor movies. The Drive-in closed on 30 September 1985 due to poor attendances and increasing competition from video pirates.

History of the Outdoor Cinema

Cathay Organisation adopted the drive-in outdoor cinema concept from the O’Halloran Hill cinema in Adelaide, Australia, and opened Singapore’s first and only drive-in theater in Yuan Ching Road, Jurong (next to the Japanese Garden) on 14 July 1971. Also the largest in Asia, the opening of the Jurong Drive-in was officiated by the then Minister of Culture, Jek Yuen Thong. Premiering at the opening night of outdoor movies was Ralph Thomas’ Doctor in Trouble. Box-office proceeds for the opening were donated to Jurong Town Creche and Jurong Town Community Centre.

On the opening night, about 880 cars packed the 5.6 ha drive-in with an additional 300 patrons occupying its walk-in open gallery. They viewed the outdoor movie on a giant screen measuring 47 ft by 100 ft. Tilted at an angle of six-and-a-half degrees, the screen was raised 25 ft above ground. The movie soundtrack was played over 899 speaker stands on the drive-in grounds and special car speakers attached to individual cars. Patrons munched on snacks and ate ice cream sold during the outdoor film screening.

Description of the Drive-In

The drive-in theater attracted thousands during its heyday in the 1970s. Outdoor movies were screened daily at two time slots 7:00 pm and 9:00 pm. Tickets were priced at S$2 for adults and S$1 for children under 12 years. It featured mainly first-run English language films and Hong Kong action movies. For instance, films starring Bruce Lee were very popular with patrons. His movie, The Big Boss, broke the drive-in cinema’s box-office record, collecting S$12,000 for one night.

The popularity of the Drive-In owed to the experience of watching a giant outdoor screen in the privacy of the car. It was also one of the few outings in which the whole family could go to. But the novelty slowly wore off as the open air cinema was at the mercy of tropical weather conditions, especially heavy downpours. Patrons complained that prolonged use of their windshield wipers throughout the shows when it rained was hazardous to their car’s ignition system. The open-air screening was also harder to manage and led to chaos as patrons who were impatient when car queues leading to the Drive-in became too long got off their vehicles and walked. Gate-crashers also added to the unruliness and many who turned up did not pay for their tickets. Getting audiences to settle down led to delayed screening of shows. Plans to open other drive-in cinemas never materialised, leaving Jurong as Singapore’s only drive-in theater.

Outdoor Movies: Winding-up

As early as 1981, Cathay Organisation was already musing about closing the Drive-in. Dismal attendance and illegal racing activities were their major concerns. For the past several years before it closed in 1985, on average only 200 people or 100 cars turned up for its daily outdoor film screenings, occupying only a fraction of its 900-car capacity lot. The drastic drop in cinema attendance was attributed mainly to video piracy. The large vacuum invited unwelcome guests as motorcyclists were reported to use the drive-in site for illegal racing activities after the shows ended. In view of these factors, Cathay Organisation decided not to renew its lease from Jurong Town Corporation (JTC). On 30 September 1985, Jurong Drive-in theater screened its last outdoor movies and closed its chapter after 15 years of operation.

Drive-in Theater Revival

Through the years, drive-in cinemas were periodically revived. As part of the 1996 arts festival fringe, the People’s Association Paya Lebar carpark was transformed into a temporary drive-in from 31 May to 1 June, screening family-oriented outdoor movies on both days. In 2003, Kallang carpark was the venue for a drive-in movie organised during the Romancing Singapore Festival. Currently, outdoor films are held once a month at Carpark B, Downtown East, an NTUC Club at Pasir Ris.

From “Jurong Drive-in cinema” By Nureza Ahmad -National Library Board Singapore. Read full article at:


Tan Son Nhut, Vietnam: Outdoor Movie Screen Brought Entertainment to Vietnam Soldiers on Tan Son Nhut Military Base

Outdoor Movies on the Tan Son Nhut Military Base, VietnamWatching outdoor movies is probably the most popular pastime of Tan Son Nhut AB military personnel despite their wide participation in a variety of other recreational activities also available on the military base. Attendance figures from MSgt Tom Romer, manager, show that the outdoor movies at the Base Theather attracted 6,563 customers in March. This was for 164 showings.

The free movies, shown on an outdoor movie screen five nights a week at the four main barracks areas at TSN, drew another 5,200 viewers. This included 92 showings. The Base Theater has a capacity of 242. Some showings, usually in the evenings, often are sold out, especially for hit films. It is not unusual for movie buffs at TSN to wait an hour and a half, or longer, in line to purchase a ticket. Another half-hour wait faces them before the doors open.

Such was the case recently when “Murderers Row”, starring Dean Martin, played here. The same was true for “The Professionals”, which featured Lee Marvin and Burt Lancaster.

One ardent movie fan refused to be dismayed by the Sold Out Sign posted in the ticket window when “The Professionals” was playing. He simply had to get in. He did. He bought a ducat for $ 2.50 from someone waiting in line to enter the theater.

The outdoor movie theater is to get new seats also. The present wooden ones are old and badly worn. “When they break,” the sergeant reports, “they often can’t be repaired.” About 50 steel folding chairs are being used temporarily. This too has its drawback. Each Sunday afternoon the Personnel Services Office borrows the chairs to use at one of their recreational programs in a barracks area.

The free outdoor movies come from Armed Forces Motion Picture services, according to SSgt Billy Goodson who conducts the program. Some of the films have been shown at the Base Theater. The barracks areas usually get them two weeks later.

Licensed projectionists, who are paid for their services, show the films. They are few break-downs. They do a professional job.

None of the barracks areas have permanent seating. Viewers bring their own chairs — and mosquito repellent.

Article originally published on May 10, 1967 in the Air Force News.