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Damage discovered at drive-in theater

June 09, 2006|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

Someone "blew out the entire wall" of a building that houses the old Leitersburg Pike drive-in projection booth north of Hagerstown, said Alan Ackerman, who is reviving outdoor movies there.

Ackerman discovered the damage - which he estimated at $10,000 - late last week.

He is offering a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever caused the damage.

This is the second stumbling block Ackerman has faced recently in trying to reopen the drive-in screen, which closed in 1985 after 20 years.

Last month, he learned that underground lines supplying electricity to the projection booth need to be replaced, a project that could take several weeks.

For now, he is setting up an inflatable screen in the parking lot on weekends. A double-feature will be shown each Friday, Saturday and Sunday, starting today about 8:45 p.m. with "The Wizard of Oz" and "Grease."

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On May 5, Ackerman reopened the 10-screen multiplex on the same property. It had been closed for more than three months as the business changed hands.

A hurricane a few years ago knocked the roof off the projection building.

Ackerman said someone apparently wrapped a chain around the door frame, attached it to a truck and drove away, tearing down the entire wall, which is about 12 feet wide.

Washington County Sheriff's Department Deputy 1st Class Matthew Bragunier, who investigated the damage, said Ackerman reported it Wednesday.

"I used to work masonry myself and (the wall) did not just fall over," Bragunier said.

Ackerman said the vandalism surprised him because many people are excited to hear the drive-in is coming back.

"We kind of figured that this is Hagerstown, (so) we wouldn't have any problems ..." he said. "We had so much support from the community. We've been getting 50 to 100 calls a day."

He said the damage solidified his belief that the property - which is owned by four siblings in the Ridenour family - needs to be watched by professional security officers and security cameras.

A chain will block off the driveway, preventing people from using the parking lot as a park-and-ride area, he said.

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