July 31: Holiday Auto Theatre, Hamilton OH

It’s Day 211 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. I crossed over to Ohio for the start of a new movie week, taking almost three hours to drive from one Holiday to another, from the Holiday Drive-In Theatre in Mitchell IN to the Holiday Auto Theatre in Hamilton OH.

According to Cinema Treasures, the Holiday opened in September 1948 as the Hamilton Outdoor Theatre. CT says the name was changed in 1951 to Holiday Auto Theatre, but an article in The Miami Student says it changed when National Amusements bought it in late 1948. Cinema Treasures’ timeline seems more likely.

“It changed hands a few times over the years,” wrote the Student, and that fact holds up well. The 1948-49 Theatre Catalog lists Louis Aldt as the owner, and the International Motion Picture Almanac has “L. Olt” owning the place in 1959. I think somebody misspelled that name. Making it more confusing is that in between, Ben Cohen was listed as the owner in 1956.

There’s another ownership snapshot in 1998 when Cincinnati Magazine included then-owner Fred Baum in its discussion of regional drive-ins. “To describe Baum as passionate about his drive-in is to seriously underplay the man’s obsession,” it wrote. The grounds and concession stand were impeccable, and “the much-modified projector, with its 4,500-watt xenon bulb, produces an immaculate image on the huge screen.”

A Cinema Treasures commenter said Baum passed away on Memorial Day 2007 at age 64. “Current co-owner Gregory Reinhold and The Holiday employees continue to operate this venue as Fred would have wished, even though Baum put the Drive -In up for sale in 2006.”

Cincinnati Magazine wrote that Todd Chancey and Mark Althoetmar, a pair of Disney employees (former, in Chancey’s case), bought the Holiday in 2007. They converted it to digital projection before the 2013 season. “The challenge is you have to get a machine strong and large enough to get the light to the screen,” Chancey said.

The YouTube video from this post comes from a viewer of WXIX, Cincinnati’s News Leader, who recorded a live remote at the Holiday for New Years Eve 2009. While it was nice to see Chancey talk about his preparations, for me the video is worth watching just for that great view of the drive-in marquee at night. (The tradition continued; in 2012, USA Today listed the Holiday among its 10 great places for a family-friendly New Year’s Eve.)

This was the third time I’ve seen the latest Planet of the Apes installment, but the loud action makes it a pretty good drive-in movie. Anything’s better than The Emoji Movie.

Miles Today / Total:  132 / 26282 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: War for the Planet of the Apes / 127

Nearby Restaurant: At Lindenwald Station, they serve breakfast all day, which made me happy after a drive that took practically all morning. I heard the biscuits and gravy were worth it, and of course they were. At lunch, I had a half order plus a “Cattle Car” omelette (the station has a neat locomotive theme) packed with ham, bacon, sausage, and cheese, then topped with more gravy. Which is why I wasn’t hungry for dinner.

Where I Virtually Stayed: Even though Hamilton is a much larger town than many I’ve seen lately (population 62,000 or so) and is close to Cincinnati, there’s only one hotel in town. Good thing it’s a Courtyard, and an especially good one at that. I haven’t written about Courtyards much, because they’re usually found where business travelers want to be, but they’re pretty reliable. My freshly renovated king room had a mini-fridge and a coffee maker, and breakfast was available for purchase.

Only in Hamilton: Roadside America has the whole story of the Hollow Earth Monument. It marks the gravesite of John Cleves Symmes Jr., hero of the War of 1812, who later announced that the Earth was hollow with giant holes at the North and South Poles. He died in 1829 and was buried in his family’s cemetery. When that was turned into a park in the 1840s, all of its bodies were dug up and moved to a new cemetery — except for John Cleves Symmes Jr. It was around this time that Symmes’ son erected the Hollow Earth Monument, topped by a globe with hole through its middle, inscribed with Symmes’ belief that “the Earth is hollow and habitable within.”

Next stop: Starlite Drive-In Theatre, Amelia OH.