Dec. 12: Magic City Drive In, Barberton OH

Magic City Drive-in marquee, main screen, and box office

Photo from the Magic City Drive-In Facebook page

It’s Day 346 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. It took only about 40 minutes of driving on State Highway 21 to get from the Lynn Auto Drive In Theatre, northwest of Strasburg OH to the Magic City Drive In, southwest of Barberton OH.

The Magic City has its own About Us history page, so let’s start there. It says “The Magic City Drive-In was built and opened by Vince Lauter (West Theatre) and Lou Ratener (Montrose Drive-In) in 1953 as a single screen drive-in. It was sold just a few years after opening to Selected Theaters who added a second screen in the mid seventies. Gary Greive purchased it in 1980. Capacity 700 cars.”

Whoever posted that page got the opener wrong. (It still amazes me when that happens.) Heritage Ohio knew that the Magic City really opened in 1950. Cinema Treasures wrote that the date was June 22 and has the Grand Opening newspaper ad to prove it.

According to Cinema Treasures the Magic City was opened by Lou Ratener and Vince Lauter, and Ohio Theatre Service. Its marquee showed a genie coming out of a brass lamp, like magic. (More recent photos suggest that wedge of the marquee appears to have been painted over.) In November 1967, the Magic City was sold to Sam, Jay and Don Schultz, dba Jaydon Amusements Corp. and Selected Theatre Management Corp. from Cleveland. They added a second screen in 1978.

In 1980, Jaydon Amusements leased the drive-in to Gary Grieve, and they sold it to him in January 1985. The Cinema Treasures ownership note concludes, “Gary Grieve and Jeff Davis own and operate the Blue Sky Drive-In and the Magic City Drive-In.” As of July 2013, when the Marysville Journal-Tribune noted that he had converted both drive-ins to digital projection, Grieve was still the owner.

And that’s about all I’ve got this time. In Spring 2017, there was a flap about Disney raising its rates to show Guardians of the Galaxy 2. Both the Magic City and Blue Sky showed something else, but nobody commented on the record about the issue.

The drive-in closed for the season in October, and I’m glad it’s in good shape to return next spring.

Miles Today / Total: 31 / 39015 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: dark / 200

Nearby Restaurant: A snowy, below-freezing day would seem to be an odd time to head to an ice cream shop, but I just had to search out The Erie Depot. It’s got its own Wikipedia page related to its history as a train station. It was built in 1890 by Barberton’s founder, Ohio Columbus Barber, to promote his new town. It was restored beginning in 2012, and the ice cream came soon after. I was all set for a hot fudge sundae using homemade waffles, but the Depot was closed for the season, just like the drive-in. Maybe next time!

Where I Virtually Stayed: Google said that the closest hotels to the Magic City are in Wadsworth, which was nice because it gave me the chance to stay two nights in the same place. The Comfort Inn looked like the best combination of cheap and good, so that’s where I checked in. There’s a restaurant and lounge adjacent to the hotel. My room had the full set of modern amenities. Breakfast has hot food along with the continental favorites. All in all, it’s a nice place for me to stay put in the snow.

Only in Barberton: As I mentioned above, Barberton was started by OC Barber and was incorporated in 1891. Wikipedia says that Barberton became known as the “Magic City” because of its rapid population growth during its formative industrial years. Barber moved the Diamond Match Company to town, attracting plenty of workers. When an Akron Beacon Journal reporter revisited Barberton in 1893, he noted that since 1891, it had grown so quickly that it appeared to have grown by magic.

Next stop: Blue Sky Drive In Theater, Wadsworth OH.