Stony Brook Drive-in: ‘I saw ‘Pulp Fiction’ there …’
John Toomey, of East Manchester Township, puts finishing work on a mural-wallpaper installation and Ken Raffensberger, of Ken Raffensberger Quality Painting and Wallpaper in Dover Township, is in the foregrond at Stony Brook Gardens, a new retirement community built on the site of the Stony Brooke Drive-in Theater. Background posts: Drive-in site developer seeks memorabilia and Change flattens Stony Brook Drive-in.
Ten years ago, the AMC theater near the Stony Brook drive-in closed its doors.
Across town, AMC also was selling the 20-acre Lincolnway Drive-in site.
The theater and drive-ins are among York County icons that spark memories anytime they are mentioned.
But 10 years later, two attractions are growing in their stead….
Today, Sovereign Bank stadium plays host to a Double Header Movie Night.
Two films will be shown on a 35-foot-by- 60-foot screen set up over the left field wall, known as the Arch Nemesis for nearby Arch Street.
And a community room for the Stony Brook Gardens retirement village built on the site of the old Stony Brook Drive-in contains a mural and other memorabilia from the drive-in’s heyday in the 1950s.
And Steve Francis, art director for the community room, is looking for more artifacts. If you have any to donate, call Springwood Real Estate Services at 718-2992.
As for the story of that site, here’s a York Daily Record article telling of those final days, 10 years ago:
AMC Entertainment Inc. has spliced its film ties with York County.
The Kansas City-based company will close its York-4 theater on East Market Street in Springettsbury Township after its Thursday night showings. And that’s not all. AMC is selling the entire 24-acre lot.
The four-screen theater, the old Stony Brook drive-in theater and its land are all up for sale. The asking price: $4 million.
Seem like a lot? Well, Bennett Williams real estate officials say they have a potential buyer. A big developer is interested in purchasing the parcel, said Daniel Whiteley, real estate associate.
“The deal is coming down from our agents in Harrisburg,” he said. “We expected to have the deal last week, so I guess it could be any time.” Whiteley said he hasn’t worked with the developer so he wasn’t sure what the group had in mind.
All but 4.3 acres of the lot is zoned for commercial use, he said. He wouldn’t identify the possible buyer. The property has been up for sale since Jan. 1, he said.
Vicki Smith, the theater’s general manager, told her 12 employees about three weeks ago that the theater would close. All but 3 of those employees found other jobs.
“The three who didn’t have other jobs were high school students,” she said. Smith, who has worked for AMC for 10 years, also found another job. She will serve as box office supervisor at the American Music Theater in Lancaster.
The reason for closing the theater is simple. It was a business decision. The theater suffered from low attendance even though it has bigger movie screens than its surrounding competitors, Smith said.
Then there’s the parking lot. For years, managers at the theater tried to get AMC to fix the lot, but it never happened, Smith said. The lot is plagued with potholes and severe pavement cracks.
“We put in for it year after year,” she said. “But it was a big expense and it never happened.”
AMC officials say it wasn’t profitable to stick with the theater. The 1,345-seat theater wasn’t doing as well as others in the area, said Walter “Sonny” Stuffle, an AMC marketing and advertising official at the company’s district office in Voorhees, N.J.
“The lease was up and the business didn’t warrant keeping it open,” he said. Smith said she tried various advertising techniques to attract moviegoers. Students who purchased tickets on Friday nights could get a discount on a soda and a small popcorn. She also ran coupons and offered discount movie prices to any group.
But promotions weren’t the problem. The theater’s lack of success could be attributed to its location, said Victor Viser, York College communication professor.
Nowadays, movie theaters are lumped with other stores, restaurants or coffee bars to attract patrons, Viser said. It’s harder for a stand-alone theater to survive even if it has bigger screens and better seats.
“This is a big loss to me,” Viser said. “I saw “Pulp Fiction’ there and really enjoyed it.”
But, in general, York County residents don’t seem to be concerned with screen size or sound quality, he said. Most are satisfied with 8 feet by 8 feet screen dimensions.
“People have relatively low expectations,” he said. “And it is one more reason for the youth to leave the county.”
To Brad Myers, Delco Plaza theater manager, the problem isn’t that there are too many screens in York County. The real dilemma is that all those theaters have outdated technology. Most theaters don’t have digital sound or large screens. Theater builders didn’t consider modern conveniences when they constructed many of the county’s theaters, he said.
“When you go to Queensgate, it’s like sitting in a closet,” he said.
Heather Surfield, assistant manager of Regal Queensgate in York Township, said the York-4 theater wasn’t helped by the fact that it was an older theater with only four screens. With a new multiscreen theater going into West Manchester Township, she didn’t think the community would be hurt.
In fact, she said the new theater is supposed to have state-of-the-art movie technology as well as a neighboring coffee bar.
That theater is expected to be completed by the end of the year. York-4 and the Stony Brook drive-in aren’t the only theaters on the market.
AMC is also selling its Lincoln Drive-in, located six miles west of York on Route 30. The asking price is $800,000 for the 20-acre property, said Whiteley, who is handling the land for Bennett Williams.