I was fortunate enough to borrow the 1946-47 edition of Theatre Catalog, published by Jay Emanuel Publications, Inc. You can buy a copy on Amazon. I don’t know if it’s worth Amazon’s hefty price tag, but it definitely provides many hours of reading and hundreds of wonderful photos.
Just one of those amazing photos is at the right. It’s the entrance of the Kallet (Camillus NY), which had a three-tier waterfall pumping 50 gallons of water a second on the highway side of the screen. Too bad there wasn’t a good photo of that!
This amazing book has almost 600 Life-magazine-sized pages covering every aspect of movie theater (I spell it -ter) operation. There’s a lengthy article from the American Automobile Association discussing how to provide enough parking for downtown theaters, and whether the theater owner or the town should provide it. An article on facades and movable letters includes six pages of discussion and 28 photos. If you love movie theater history, this book is worth almost any cost.
(What this Catalog doesn’t have is a directory of active theaters. Later editions, such as the 1950-51 listed a few weeks ago on eBay, appears to have listed them all, making them great snapshot drive-in census reports. But not 1946-47.)
This book includes features on five drive-ins under Recent Theatre Construction and tons of great pictures of post-war theaters. My favorite part is a really interesting one-page article titled Notes on Management of Drive-In Theatres by Carl Hellpen, E.M. Loew’s Theatres. Hellpen tells managers that frequent painting not only makes a drive-in’s structures look clean, “it is by far the best protection of the property.” He also suggests that a uniformed usher should walk among the ramps to police the patrons, and that every new drive-in must have a gas station, so maybe can you take it with a grain of salt. You can read the article in its entirety here.
I’ll finish with one more photo, this one of the Speedway Auto Theatre (Greenville OH). It’s not much of a picture, but it shows the huge speakers mounted below the screen of this old-style drive-in.