Prince Drive-In Theater

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Prince Drive-In Theater
1953 to 1979
2015 East Prince Road

Prince Drive-In Marquee
Photo - Circa 1974


The Prince Drive-In Theater was located on the Northeast corner of the intersection of Prince Road and Campbell Avenue just south of Tucson General Hospital. Apartments now occupy the former drive-in site.

The drive-in was a joint venture between Hugh Downs and Wesley Becker of the Cactus Drive-In and Floyd Bernard of the Midway Drive-in. The theater got off to a bumpy start before it was ever built.

Neighbors adjacent to the drive-in property filed suit that it was a nuisance before it ever opened.

During construction, two temporary workers were killed following the collapse of the screen.

Following are some newspaper accounts of the history. Of prominent mention is the attorney for Mr. Downs and Mr. Becker was Morris K. Udall. Mr. Udall went on to become a legend in politics and served as the US Secretary of the Interior under several presidents.


Screen of Drive-In Topples; Two Killed

January 11, 1953
By Chris Cole
Arizona Daily Star

Two workmen were killed yesterday afternoon when a giant 57 foot movie screen collapsed at a drive-in theater under construction on East Prince road near North Campbell avenue.

Earl Emery Forkum, 26, of 525 West Palmdale street was killed instantly when he was crushed beneath 20 tons of debris from the fallen screen.

John Grimes, 32, of 2831 East Helen street, who loosened his safety belt and jumped from the tottering structure, died at the Tucson Medical Center four hours later. He received multiple broken bones, head and internal injuries.

Belt Still Fastened

Sheriffs deputies said Forkum, who was with Grimes on the top of the screen, apparently never had a chance to jump clear. His body was found fastened to a broken upright by a safety belt.

Both men were hired yesterday by Hugh Downs, the theater manager. Regular employees of the Tucson Gas, Electric Light and Power company, they had agreed to work for Downs on a part-time basis, deputies said.

Downs refused to permit reporters or photographers on the theater property and voiced threats against one photographer who tried to take a picture of the collapsed screen.

County engineers went to the scene yesterday afternoon, at the request of the sheriffs office' to check construction practices at the new drive-in.

Emergency Supports

Investigating officers said they found two ropes, five-eighths of an inch in diameter, that had been used as emergency supports for the 20-ton screen.

The ropes had been fastened to car bumpers, then attached at each end of the partially completed structure they said.

Manufactures of similar rope advertise their products can stand a total stress of 800 pounds.

The workmen were unable to account for the sudden collapse of the wooden framework. Four portions of the frame, each 12 feet in length and 57 feet high were already in place. A fifth frame was being attached when the entire structure fell.

Carl Cathy, 42, a crane operator for the Chapman-Dyer Construction company wrecked his equipment in a vain effort to keep the screen from collapsing.

Vain Attempt

Trying to save the lives of the two workmen who were perched perilously on the top of the fifth frame, Cathy ran his crane in close to hold up the screen with its boom, deputies said.

The screen fell, mangling the cranes's boom, and pulling the entire lifting mechanism from the top of the huge vehicle. It was reported as a total wreck. Cathy narrowly escaped injury as the crane ripped apart, deputies said.

The bodies of Forkum and Grimes were taken to the Kerr mortuary. Funeral arrangements will be announced later.


Receiver for Theater Appointed

January 14, 1955
Arizona Daily Star

Judge Robert B. Tullar yesterday named Harry Warren to be receiver of the Prince drive-in theater until such time as a legal dispute between the co-owners can be settled in court.

Hugh L. Downs and Wesley R. Becker, owners of the Cactus drive-in theater and half owners of the Prince theater, are suing Floyd Bernard and his Midway Enterprises, Inc. charging that by boosting film rental prices Bernard, the other half owner, is causing the Prince to lose money. The purpose is to force them to sell out to the defendant, the plaintiffs allege.

Judge Tullar heard arguments Monday afternoon on the matter, taking the motion under advisement.

Morris K. Udall appeared for the plaintiffs, with Oliver T. Hamilton for the defendants.

In his order, Judge Tullar ruled that the Prince theater is not to be changed from a second run theater to a first run theater without permission of the court, and that Warren is not to employ any of the parties to the action pending it's outcome.

Warren posted $10,000 bond, which was approved by Judge Tullar as sufficient for the receiver to post.


$1,000 Fine Imposed on Theater for Contempt

November 22, 1955
Arizona Daily Star

Judge Herbert F, Krucker yesterday held the Prince Drive-In Theater in contempt of Superior Court. The jurist levied a $1,000 fine against the theater but ruled that it could purge itself of contempt in lieu of the fine by closing down.

The judgement will take effect in five days, he said.

Judge Krucker's ruling held the theater and court appointed receiver, Dallas Day, in contempt for violating a writ of injunction of Aug. 4, 1955.

Hearings on the violation were held during four days in September. The judge indicated he had just finished a study of briefs filed by opposing attorneys in the case, the last brief having been submitted last Thursday.

However, since the hearings, the theater has changed hands. It has been taken over by the Midway Drive-in Theater Corporation, which has operated it for three weeks.

Manager Carl Halberg told last night of the court's decision, said that conditions existing at the theater at the time of the hearings have been changed by the new management.

Objections listed in the writ of injunction were odors, dust, noise and light coming from the theater. Objection to the theater was voiced by George W. and Ullena I. Beal and 10 other couples who brought suit against the theater on Nov. 8, 1952.

Halberg said the theater has contracted to build a metal fence to prevent light from shining in the eyes of neighboring residents, has contracted for an oiling operation to cut down on dust and until the work is done, the theater wets down the surrounding area, has covered much of it with pea gravel, has advanced its showtime to eliminate noise from auto horns and has doubled the number of field attendants and clean-up men.

The theater was formerly operated by Hugh Downs and Wesley Becker. It was placed in receivership and Judge Robert S. Tullar appointed Dallas Day, who formerly operated the Rodeo Drive-in Theater to run it in the interest of the stockholders.

The Downs and Becker interests were represented by Atty. Morris K. Udall. Midway Drive-In is represented by Atty. John T. Molloy and the plaintiffs by Atty. William A. Scanland.


Drive-In Theater Must Defend Case in Court

December 09, 1955
Arizona Daily Star

Judge Herbert F. Krucker has scheduled a hearing for 9:30 AM Monday ordering the Prince Drive-In Theater Corporation to show cause why it should not be permanently enjoined from operating its theater at Prince Road and North Campbell avenue.

On Nov. 21 Judge Krucker found the theater in contempt of court and fined it $1,000 with an alternative of closing its doors within 5 days of the order.

The theater has neither closed nor paid. On Dec. 1 Atty. John F. Molloy filed a motion for a rehearing on the injunction proceeding that has been in court more than a year.

It stemmed from a complaint by Ullena I. Beal and a number of other neighboring land-owners that the theater constituted a nuisance, causing dust, odors, lights and noise.

Recently the theater has been taken over by the Midway Enterprises Corp., which has contracted to do away with the objections to the theaters operation.

However, on Wednesday the law firm of Boyle, Bilbe and Thompson petitioned for the theater to show cause why the theater should not be permanently enjoined from operation.


Prince Drive-In is Fined $1,000

Defendant Pays Sums Protesting Theater is now run by Different Management

December 13, 1955
Arizona Daily Star

Atty. John Molloy paid a $1,000 fine under protest yesterday for the Prince Development Corp. on a finding by Judge Herbert F. Krucker that the Prince Drive-In Theater was in contempt of court.

Judge Krucker has ruled that the theater could purge itself in contempt in lieu of the fine by closing its doors.

The theater was the subject of extended litigation begun in 1952 by George Beal and several neighboring residents who charged that the theater was a nuisance.

Molloy yesterday argued that the present managers are being held in contempt for something it didn't do. During the time of the hearings on the maintenance of the theater, September, it was being operated by a court appointed receiver, Dallas Day.

A month ago, the theater was taken over by Midway Enterprises, Inc. as part of the Midway Drive-In theater chain, Molloy said and the courts decision may be appealed.

Yesterday's session before Judge Krucker was held on an order to show cause why the theater should not be permanently closed since it had not paid the $1,000 fine on the contempt order. The show cause order had been appealed by Beals's attorneys, Richard Evans and William Scanland.

Judge Krucker also denied a motion by Molloy to rehear the complaint against the theater.


Drive-In to Appeal Levy by Court

Lawyers File Notice to Supreme Court

January 19, 1956
Arizona Daily Star

A $1,000 fine levied in December against the Prince Drive-in Theater by Judge Herbert F. Krucker will be appealed to the Supreme Court, according to two notices presented in Superior Court yesterday.

Separate notices of appeal were filed by Atty. John Molloy, representing the Midway Enterprises, which now operates the Prince, and by Atty. Morris K. Udall, representing Receiver Dallas Day, named in the fining order.

Day was named receiver by Judge Robert S. Tullar, who then disqualified himself from hearing any later litigation concerning the theater.

The case against the theater was an injunction complaint filed two years ago by plaintiffs headed by George and Ullena Beal, whose property adjoins the theater.

Judge Tullar set up an order regulating noise, dust, light and trash, and in July 1955, hearings began before Judge Krucker on the allegation by plaintiffs that the theater was in contempt of court by violating the injunction.

Judge Krucker found that the theater was in violation of the injunction and ordered it closed or alternatively to pay a $1,000 fine.

The fine was paid under protest by the theater which claimed that since the hearings, the theater has changed ownership.


New Firm May Solve Movie Drive-In Woes

October 28, 1955
Ray Halvorsen
Arizona Daily Star

Dust was settling this week in the battle that has raged for two years around Tucson's drive-in theaters.

The skirmishes ended with the entrance for the first time in Tucson of Sero Amusement Enterprises Inc. of Hollywood, which has bought controlling interest in three theaters.

Sero manager Bob Benton announced yesterday that his company has bought controlling stock in the Cactus and Rodeo theaters.

Negotiations are being concluded for purchase also of the Fiesta, which has been controlled by Cactus.

Stock sale was made to Sero by Hugh Downs and Wes Becker. Benton said Downs and Becker will be retained to supervise management of Sero's interests here.

At the same time bargaining between Sero and Midway Enterprises Inc. Los Angeles, has resulted in the control of the Prince Drive-In Theater by Midway.

A law suit in Superior Court by Downs and Becker against Midway over stock in the Fiesta was settled last Friday out of court and the suit was dismissed Tuesday.

Floyd Bernard, manager of Midway Enterprises, which owns a four state string of theaters, said yesterday the company will operate the Midway, the 22nd Street theater, which it rents with option to buy from George W. Bromley, Tucson, and the Prince.

Bernard said that immediate steps will be taken to eliminate some objections voiced by residents living near the Prince. He said new landscaping will be added and the entire area around the theater oiled to keep out dust.

Bernard denied guesses among theater people in Tucson that Sero has been quietly buying up stock in Midway Enterprises, control of which would mean control of all but two of the city's drive-ins.

Apache Drive-In, beset with bills as a new theater, has had trouble making payments and writs of attachment have twice been executed by the sheriff's office.

J. Harry Agron, builder and operator of the theater, said Wednesday night that Apache, which has abandoned it's original policy of bidding for first run pictures, is now showing a profit and will be able to meet it's future obligations.

Valley Theater Corporation, which brought suit against Agron, is a part of Sero Enterprises. Sero, a name formed of the initials of Charles Skouras, Jr., Clauude Ezell, Michael Rosenberg and William Oldknow, is reported to control 125 theaters in Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, California, and Hawaii.

Biltmore Motor-Vue, owned by Sam Gillette as part of a small string of theaters in Arizona and California, announced that it intends to continue operation in Tucson independent of Midway and Sero.

Benton, speaking for Sero, said the move into Tucson was part of its current expansion plan. Asked if it intended to buy other theaters here, he said "Sero would like to buy them all, but had no plans to buy more in the foreseeable future."


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Last Updated May 07, 2000 GWC