Route 66 icon Tee Pee to reopen

Aerial drone view of the Tee Pee Drive-In viewing field with the screen in the background.
The extra-clean, newborn Tee Pee. Screen capture of a KJRH news video on YouTube

Joni Rogers-Kante grew up going to the Tee-Pee Drive-In just west of Sapulpa OK. The drive-in, sometimes spelled “Teepee,” lived a good long life from 1950 into the 1980s, then went dark off and on until its final shows in 1999.

Meanwhile, Rogers-Kante founded SeneGence USA. A few years ago, she got the idea of bringing Sapulpa’s drive-in back to life, and after many months of work, it’s ready to hold its grand opening on April 15. There’s a nice video about those plans on YouTube; too bad I couldn’t embed it for you here.

Technically, the Tee Pee sort of reopened last October, according to a story in the Tulsa World. It wasn’t quite finished, but it had enough together to show a couple of Halloween-themed films.

The screen was always in decent shape, though it looks better than ever now. The real trick to reopening the Tee Pee, in my opinion, was finding a way to overcome its traffic issue. Just a couple of years ago, there were two ways to reach the drive-in. You could loop around to the west and return east over a couple of twisty, slow miles of the original Route 66, now Ozark Trail. Or you could find a way across the 99-year-old Rock Creek Bridge, which recently reopened as a one-lane, 4-ton-rated bottleneck. (A third path might be to cut through the back of the VFW Hall’s parking lot.)

The Tee Pee’s owners neated sliced through that Gordian knot. They got a new road built to cover the one block from the current 66 to Ozark Trail, curling around the back of the viewing field. I’m a little chagrined that I never considered that elegant solution.

If you want to read more about the Tee Pee’s long history, pick up a copy of my book, Drive-Ins of Route 66, preferably the second edition, which had more photos and was correct more often. Just be sure to cross out the line that says “Closed: 1999”.

Video: Admiral Twin fixes screen

Tulsa OK’s Admiral Twin Drive-In has reopened for the season after fixing minor damage to its west screen. During the off-season, winds had blown out a few screen panels, so owner Blake Smith needed to make the first repair to the structure since it was rebuilt following a fire in September 2010.

All of this news and video came to us through KOTV, Tulsa’s News Leader, which ran a nice segment on the Admiral a couple of days before it reopened.

As I wrote in last year’s Drive-Ins of Route 66, Blake’s father, Richard D. Smith, bought the Admiral Twin around 1987 from General Cinema Corp., run at the time by Richard A. Smith. Blake officially took over in 2000.

I’ll admit that there’s not much news in the Admiral Twin’s new season, but it’s just great to get another video showing what the venerable drive-in looks like these days. Enjoy!

Video: Aut-O-Rama expands season

Finally, some good news! Not only will the Aut-O-Rama Twin Drive In of North Ridgeville OH reopen this year, it plans to expand its season. It’ll reopen on Friday, March 25, and depending on weather, owners Tim and Del Sherman hope to keep their theater open until Christmas. That uplifting story comes to us from WJW, Cleveland’s News Leader, which also furnished a fine video.

Perhaps the longer season will be a way for the Shermans to recoup some of their expenses this year. They’ll be replacing both of the screens at the Aut-O-Rama, one at a time. Not only does it cost money to install new screens, the drive-in’s income will be reduced during each side’s down period.

For a lot more Aut-O-Rama history, and yet another video, check out what I posted in 2017 as part of my Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. And let’s hope we get more positive stories like this one as drive-in season returns thus year.