Before the Megaplex, there were Movie Theaters
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Before the Megaplex, there were Movie Theaters

Before the Megaplex, there were Movie Theaters
Michael Woody
Friday, January 06, 2017

Before the massive megaplex’s of today, there were smaller movies theaters like the Flicker Palace and Page Manor.

Before the Megaplex, there were Movie Theaters

Photo credit: robboehm 

Before the massive luxurious megaplex’s of today, most movie theaters were much more plain and simple.  Comfort wasn’t much of a priority, as leather padded, reclining seats were a faraway thought, yet we still flocked to see the movies. It also used to not require spending a small fortune to go to a theater, and get popcorn, candy, and a drink. Now we are left with only the memories of attending movies, many of which are now being remade, at theatres that are no more.

Having grown up in Huber Heights, the Flicker Palace, was my main theater. It’s likely where I saw my first movie, and could have taken my first date if I wasn’t such a late bloomer. Located in the Imperial Heights Shopping Center, it was first opened in 1970 as the Jerry Lewis Cinema. A couple years later it was renamed the Huber Heights Cinema, before becoming the Flicker Palace in 1975. It would remain the Flicker Palace until closing in 1995.

What I remember most about the Flicker Palace, other than the sticky floors, was the black & white picture of about every movie star that ever existed, covering the entire inner wall. From the Tin Man of ‘Wizard of Oz’ to Al Pacino, they were all on there. Out of all the movies I saw at the Flicker Palace, the memory that stands out the most is when a group of my cousins went to see ‘The Muppet Movie’ and I threw up. Maybe Fozzie the Bear's jokes were too bad for me, or I ate too much popcorn?

A theater similar in size and also part of a strip mall was Page Manor, located in Riverside. It opened in 1967 with the showing of ‘In Like Flint’ with actress Kathryn Grayson in attendance. In 1975 a second screen was added to the theater. After multiple changes in ownership through the years, Page Manor was closed in 1998. There was a brief resurgence in 2004 until 2006, when the offerings included showings of the ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show’ at midnight on Saturdays. There were big plans in 2010 to revitalize the theater, not only for movies but also for live productions, but a fire led to the destruction of the building in 2011.

Another option was Cinema North, on Siebenthaler, which was considered huge with five screens. It’s where I saw ‘Rocky III’ and a number of the ‘Police Academy’ films, along with many other blockbusters, and a few flops too. The theater was originally opened on Christmas Day in 1967 as the Fox North Plaza. It was renamed Cinema North in 1984 and was closed in 1998. The building has been transformed to be the home of a church.

While on the subject of smaller theaters, must not forget a couple that are still open and specialize in featuring artsy/independent films. They are The Little Art Theatre in Yellow Springs and the Neon Movies in downtown Dayton.

For a unique movie-going experience, there are Drive-In’s, which used to be more plentiful around Dayton. There’s nothing like stuffing a bunch of people into the car and going for a double-feature. Across from what is now the Dayton Mall, was once the Southland 75 Drive-In, which opened in 1964. Southland 75 was opened year round and had the largest outdoor screen in Ohio, which measured 130 feet wide and 53 feet high, attached to a tower that went 75 feet high into the air. A total of 3,500 patrons could be held on the grounds. Attendants may remember a lit fountain and pool at the four lane entrance. With the development of the Dayton Mall, the value of the land soared, and the twenty acres was sold for over $2million. Southland 75 closed in 1986.

The North Star Drive-In on North Dixie was known for being state of the art in 1956, when it opened, with a projection room that had an all glass front, so patrons could see the projectors and sound equipment. For refreshments, there was a 70 foot U-shaped, stainless steel cafeteria. There was also a miniature golf course on the grounds. In addition to its movies, the North Star was also known for its promotions, such as, in 1976, when a contest was held for someone to be buried underground in a casket over the Halloween weekend. North Star had its final season in 1985.

The first area drive-in to introduce stereophonic sound, car heaters, and 3D movies was the Belmont Auto Theatre. It was also one of the few one-screen theaters to have two concession stands. One was in the middle row and the other was in the back. The Belmont, located on County Line Road in Dayton, was opened in 1947. It did not close until the 1997 season.

Until recently the Skyborn Cruise-In had remained open since 1950 and was a main source of entertainment for families stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

While a number of drive-ins have closed over the years, the Dixie Drive-In on N. Dixie Drive and the Melody 49 Drive-In in Brookville remain open.

Related: Beaver Valley Cinemas demolished

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About Michael Woody

Michael Woody

Mike Woody is a life long resident of Dayton, and has a passion for writing, which is good because he doesn't excel at much of anything else, except eating.

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