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1953-54 Theatre Catalog, 11th Edition, Page 116 (82)

1953-54 Theatre Catalog, 11th Edition
1953-54 Theatre Catalog
1953-54 Theatre Catalog, 11th Edition, Page 116
Page 116

1953-54 Theatre Catalog, 11th Edition, Page 116

Steel for Screen Towers

The Evolution of the Drive-In Theatre Steel Screen Tower Is Studied in Detail by One of the Pioneers in the Field

It was inevitable that steel should be early selected as the material out of which to build the frame of the drive-in theatre screen. Steel had long been the material to use in the construction of large sign boards, and the drive-in theatre screen was a still larger, or glorified sign board.

The first drive-in theatre constructed in Camden, New Jersey, in 1933, had a screen with a wood frame, but this was the experimental theatre. Later the same screen was reconstructed with a steel frame at Union, New Jersey, where it still stands as part of one of the most profitable drive-in theatres in the country. Howard Hall, a Camden architect, designed the first theatre, including the screen. Your author, a civil engineer, was employed to lay out the theatre and apply the ramp system to the surface of the theatre tract. Our job was also to measure the large amount of earth which was moved in to form the ramps. This led to a division of responsibility on the Union Theatre, where Hall designed the steel frame screen and your author the ramp system, which, involving earthwork, required the skills of a civil engineer. We had. in the interim, made several grading plans for drive-in theatres in other parts of the country.

Sail in the Wind

Since structural design is also a function of the civil engineer, it was inevitable that we should turn to screen design. Our purpose was to simplify the old bulky framing, which required a large amount of covering, and the appearance of a clumsy building in some


Consulting Engineer

BRIEF: One of the major developments in the early days of drive-in theatres was the realization that steel would make the best material from which to construct the screen tower . . . The problem of constructing a tower that combined strength . . . beauty . . . and economy was the one that faced the author . . . This article presents his detailed account of how he helped to evolve the steel screen tower . . . and the refinements that have been developed to increase its functional and decorative uses.

Drive-in theatre operators . . . or prospective operators . . . will be interested in the description of a steel screen tower that can be constructed . . . includ ing foundations . . . for under $10,000.

thing that was not a building. Our conception was a huge, ifsail in the winds." Steel was selected as the most suitable material for this type Screen, from the standpoints of economy and lasting qualities.

First Attempt

Our first attempt seems rather crude today, although the principal involved was sound-to use factory rolled shapes in place of a large amount of field fabrication. The frame consisted of I beam columns, braced to withstand the wind and anchored to a concrete founda tion to prevent overturning. Such screens were built at Morrisville and Paramus, New Jersey.

An interesting problem arose concerning the construction of this screen. We had designed a wood panel, which could be hoisted and slipped between the flanges of the I beams. The screen face and also a rear face, for advertising purposes, were produced by a number of these panels. The field erection was very simple, involving only lifting the panels in place, bolting up, and placing small cover strips across the faces of the I beams. Bids produced a figure of $2,500 for the pre-assembled panels and their delivery to the site; a figure of $7,500 for their erection.

We could not understand the extremely high erection figure. Finally it was determined that a jurisdictional labor problem was involved. The steel workers would not erect the wood panels, ale though they could easily have done it in a couple of days. Being wood, they had to be erected by carpenters, and carpenters could not erect them without scaffolding. We calculated the cost of the scaffold-ing was around $6,000. Needless to say, the panels were never assembled and erected. We changed to steel plates, stiffened and fastened in place by welding. The amount of work to be performed off the ground was far greater, but it was on steel, not wood, so no scaffolding was required.

THE AUTHOR'S FIRST attempts at creating a functional steel drive-in screen lower made use of I beam columns braced to withstand the wind. D-I's at Morrisville (left) and Paramus (right) N. I.. were first to use this design.

1953-54 Theatre Catalog, 11th Edition, Page 116