Porterville screen resists demolition

There’s an odd little story in the Porterville CA Recorder about one of the screens at the Porterville Drive-In. It’s amusing, and a testament to 1950-era engineering, how difficult it was for a demolition company to knock it down.

According to Cinema Treasures, the Porterville opened in May 1950, added a second screen some time later, and closed after the 2004 season. The Burton School District purchased the site earlier this year and “agreed to clean up the area, including removing the two screens.” Since the school district hasn’t mentioned its plans for the property, I’m not sure those screens needed removing. Especially considering the oldest definitely wasn’t in danger of collapse.

That article in the Recorder contains a great play-by-play of Housley Demolition’s diligent work at taking down what was apparently the original screen. Housley workers cut six of the seven steel beams that held up the screen, believing that its weight would make it bend down on the seventh. After the sixth cut, nothing. As the Recorder eloquently put it, “Even the pigeons did not move.”

Then workers spent over two hours cutting the seventh beam, but the screen remained stubborn. The next day, Housley brought a large excavator, which finally pushed the screen down. I guess they really knew how to build eight-story-high screens 66 years ago.

There are some great photos of the demolition process and a lot more details in the Recorder article, so you know you really should go read it!