Saturday, September 4, 2010

Famous Tulsa Landmark Burns

Yesterday fire engulfed an iconic Tulsa landmark. A little before 2:00 p.m. the immense screens of the Admiral Twin Drive-In caught fire. 60 years of memories were reduced to ashes in less than half an hour. Initial reports indicate an electrical fault ignited the wood structure.

The unique shape of the Admiral Twin
was a familiar landmark on I-244.
Flames shot high into the sky, and the smoke could be seen for miles around. The heat was so intense passing cars caught on fire, and the nearby interstate had to be closed.

Less than an hour after the fire was extinguished, hopeful fans set up a Facebook page dedicated to rebuilding the famous drive-in. That evening a steady stream of cars drove past the site hoping to get a final glimpse of the remains. Optimistic employees used the occasion to sell their last t-shirts and promised to rebuild. The owners had no insurance.

The drive-in was the largest in Oklahoma and well known as a Route 66 landmark. The Admiral Twin was originally built in 1951 as a single screen theater called the Modernaire. But it wasn't until it was expanded to two screens that it gained its distinctive keystone shape.

Situated near Admiral Boulevard, a later alignment of Route 66 through Tulsa, the towering screens became a familiar landmark. Its proximity to Tulsa Municipal Airport (now Tulsa International) even earned it a mention on aviation maps. Later when I-244 was built the slight elevation gave passers-by a much better look at whatever movies were playing... a fact that caused parents some concern when the fare became slightly seedy during the drive-in's less glamorous days.

But the greatest notoriety for the Admiral Twin came in 1982 when it played a feature role in the movie The Outsiders. Coppola's rendition of Tulsa author S.E. Hinton's famous novel of teenage angst could have found no better setting for the classic scene. Unfortunately the cameo appearance did not bring prosperity, and the drive-in fell on hard times for many years. In 2005 things started looking up when the Admiral Twin received $20,000 by winning Hampton Inns' "Hidden Landmark Contest."

It is no small irony that next weekend was to be the end of the season. On the schedule? A special screening of the The Outsiders.

Wanna' help?
Send donations to:

Admiral Twin Drive-In c/o
Security Bank
P.O. Box 471316
Tulsa, OK 74147

or visit for the latest information.

Words and illustration by Rex Brown
Two Wheel Oklahoma

1 comment:

Randall Eggert said...

From Sand Springs to Bentonville, my route took me directly across Sheridan and Memorial on I-244 at the peak of the fire.
Upon turning on to I-244 from downtown (via the detour), the black smoke was immediately visible wafting up toward the south. What the 'ell?
Couldn't think was it was. As I passed under Yale, I could see the flames, and start feeling the radiant energy as I passed over Admiral. Now I was
beginning to understand what it was. Once past Sheridan, cars were slowing and stopping on both sides of the interstate in both directions. The
flames at this point had engulfed the entire screen, and were over twice as high as the structure itself. This close, the smoke was
drifting across I-244 and hot debris was falling onto the road. A small chunk bounced off my Stitch as I was looking out for myself. I was thinking about packing my SLR before leaving home, but did not do so. Still, I made it through without getting crunched, so that was probably the right thing to do. See ya' all next year at Crane.

It's a Travel Show

Two Wheel Oklahoma is a television travel show featuring the motorcycle rides of Brad Mathison and Rex Brown along the scenic highways and backroads of Oklahoma.

Each episode highlights a stretch of road or historic route and explores unique destinations along the way. Tune in three times a week on the Cox Channel.

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Brad and Rex: co-hosts of Two Wheel Oklahoma