Electrical problems won't stall drive-in

May 31, 2006|by ANDREW SCHOTZ


Drive-in movies on Leitersburg Pike north of Hagerstown will be revived next week as promised, but not quite as planned.

For a while, Alan Ackerman, president of Hagerstown 10 Cineplex, expected to reopen the old drive-in screen June 9.

The first show would have been the animated "Cars," on the day of its release.

This month, Ackerman learned that the underground lines supplying electricity to the drive-in projection booth need to be replaced, setting his plan back several weeks.

Yet, the show will go on, on the same day, but in a different way.

Ackerman will set up an inflatable screen in the parking lot at the cineplex. The first show - likely a second-run family movie - still will be June 9.


After a good deal of publicizing the drive-in's re-emergence, "I definitely don't want to disappoint the public," he said last week.

The drive-in opened in 1965, followed by the indoor theater five years later.

The drive-in lasted until 1985.

The cineplex kept going, although it closed a few times when the operations changed hands.

The most recent closure was Jan. 15. Ken Ridenour, one of four siblings who jointly owns the property, said at the time that his wife, Tanya, was getting worn out from running the theater as general manager.

Ackerman bought the business this year and reopened the 10-screen cineplex May 5.

He expected to do the same with the old drive-in screen, until he found out about the electrical problems. He expects the repair and replacement work to take six to eight weeks.

Allegheny Power spokesman Allen Staggers said Tuesday that the underground electrical lines that served the drive-in are no longer usable.

He said Ackerman will dig a trench for new lines and put in a conduit, or plastic pipe, to hold the wires.

Ackerman also will build a concrete pad for a transformer, Staggers said.

In the meantime, Ackerman will rent a generator to power a projection booth for the inflatable screen, which is 58 feet wide, a little more than half the size of the permanent screen.

American Family Entertainment, which Ackerman owns with Nancy Davis, set up an inflatable screen in the summer of 2003 at the Mason-Dixon Dragway on U.S. 40 east of Hagerstown.

They moved the screen to the Prince George's Stadium parking lot in Bowie, Md. - home of the Baysox minor league baseball team - for 2004 and 2005.

"Cars" is scheduled to be at the cineplex when it opens, but Ackerman won't be able to show first-run movies on the inflatable-screen drive-in.

He said that only theaters open seven days a week may show first-run movies. The temporary drive-in will be open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays until the permanent outdoor screen is ready, he said.

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