From Cinema Treasures
The Skyway Drive-In opened July 30, 1955, featuring the 1955 adventure “Soldier Of Fortune” with Clark Gable and Susan Haywood. The second feature of the evening was the 1953 musical/western “Redheads from Seattle” with Rhonda Fleming, Gene Barry, Agnes Moorehead and Teresa Brewer. In addition to the movies featured, color cartoons were also shown. Another opening day feature at the Skyway was the “Buckeye Valley Five” country and western band.
They performed live from on top of the concession stand. Admission to the theater was $.50 for adults and children under 12 years of age were free. Wednesday nights were a bargain, one dollar per car load. It was referred to as “BUCK NIGHT.” The Skyway Drive-In opened for business only on weekends around April 1st; full operations started in May where the theater operated seven days a week until late-September or early-October. The theater reverted back to the operation on weekends only until the last weekend in October.
The Skyway Drive-In Theatre construction and operation was a family run affair. It was opened by Joseph E. Binder, Jr., and Dorothy (Rohrbacher) Binder. Joseph known as “Joey” was the eldest of a family of 17 children and Dorothy came from a family of 12 children. Joey years earlier reopened the Attica Theatre in Attica, Ohio, on April 8, 1944. Joey was employed by the Herbrand Corporation, located in Fremont, Ohio, as an electrical foreman. He also was a pilot and flew the Herbrand executives to various locations as well as transporting ice fisherman to Lake Erie. Dorothy worked in her home doing laundry and ironing for several families.
With their passion for screening movies, they decided to make plans to build a drive-in theater in 1954. They found adequate acreage on property owned by Fred and Alice Swartzman, husband and wife. On February 26, 1954, they purchased 10 acres from the Swartzman’s at a purchase price of $9,000. The property is located in Washington Township, eight miles West of Fremont and five miles east of Woodville, Ohio. Joey selected Skyway as the name for his new drive-in theatre since it reflected his love for the skies and his pilot abilities.
Joey began construction with enthusiasm. He brought in earth moving equipment, built driveways, ramps, and the concession stand. At his home in the garage, he poured large squares of concrete around poles for the speakers. The poles and the aluminum fences were made from his airplane hangar that he had disassembled. Installing underground wiring for the speakers was not a problem since Joey was an electrician. There were 150 speaker poles which accommodated 300 cars on the parking ramp. The screen tower was supplied from Selby Industries at a cost of $6,086.82. Ben Ogden of Ohio Theatre Supply Co. supplied additional equipment at a cost of $7,500. It was equipped with Strong Futura ll movie projectors. The Skyway was built at a cost of approximately $31,000 - $33,000.