by Jim Nintzel
Charlie Spillar, the sculptor who did yeoman's work in preserving the statues at Magic Carpet Golf, is now trying to save the big screens at the shuttered De Anza Drive-In in hopes of launching a new drive-in theater elsewhere in town. He tells us:
On Friday, June 18, a group of dedicated volunteers will be helping to remove major components of the giant screen from the closed and demolished De Anza Drive-In Theater on Alvernon near 22nd. The structures will be moved to a secure location for reassemble at a later date. Ever since the theaters closing, the public has been overwhelmingly supportive of a new drive-in project underway.
The efforts are lead by Charlie Spillar (savior of the Magic Carpet statues) and Demion Clinco, of the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation. They have assembled an advisory team made up of several city government and business leaders. The group has plans for a community based new drive-in to be called the Cactus Drive-In. This was the actual name of the original drive-in at the Alvernon location started in 1951.
The volunteer organization now has a website in process to keep
interested parties up-to-date on the status of the new “walk-in, bike-in, drive-in concept. Concept Artist volunteer, John Kelly, has created several concept drawings. Local drive-in historian, George Cohn, has secured a donation of two complete professional film projectors and sound systems. One of the volunteers in the advisory group is Roy Zarow, the last projectionist at the De Anza.
The new drive-in will become a NON-PROFIT 501c corporation enabling future donations to be a tax-free donation. It will be totally financed by donations of money, property, services, etc. and will have no city or state funding due to the economic crisis. A series of fundraisers are in the works for raising the necessary capital to support this community project. It will have a 50’s theme from the heyday of drive-ins. They have an architectural firm and engineering firm excited about working with them.
Several City officials are helping with this project and are attempting to locate at least 4 acres of land to create the Drive-In. As sources of revenue they are planning on movies (working with the Loft cinema), musical venues (working with the Rialto management) and plans are underway to organize farmer’s markets, antique car shows, antique furniture shows, food fairs, dramatic performances, etc. to assure its sustainability. The project will be created as “green” as possible utilizing solar, water harvesting, etc.
It is an involved project but the group is very confident it will be accomplished. Everyone should be able to experience a drive-in movie. Hundreds of thousands of Tucsonans have enjoyed this experience in the past and future families should have this same opportunity.
Pictures of the projectors and sound system can be found on the new web site: < http://www.cactusdriveintheater.com> .This website will be drastically improved in the months ahead. The web design class this summer at the Arts Institute of Tucson has volunteered to help make the Cactus Drive-In site dramatic and informative and something of pride for the community of Tucson.
Fridays screen parts move will be for the smaller components of the giant screen and the heavy tonnage main structures (63 ft. long) and their support I-beams will be removed within a short period of time. Several companies including I-Lift forklifts on Benson Highway have already committed to helping remove these giant pieces to a secure location.
Photos of the projection equipment and the concept drawings are available on request.
The planned screen parts move, taking place at the closed De Anza, will begin at 9:30 AM tomorrow June 18. Any strong bodies with gloves are invited.