For nearly four decades, the Rose City Drive-In theater in Newark has sat vacant. Trees and shrubs had taken over the property that once welcomed hundreds of movie-goers in years past.
However its new owner has been hard at work restoring and renovating the 16 acre property to once again open the gates to visitors young and old.
Paul Cole, a lifelong Newark resident and local business owner, purchased the property earlier this year and began the laborious process of breathing new life into the once staple of Route 31.
"For it to sit here idle I thought was a shame." Cole said. Having spent time here as a child, Cole has always had a special place in his heart for the property, and after years of back and forth with the previous owners, finally took possession and began the huge task of bringing the theater back to it’s former glory.
With the former buildings demolished years ago and mother nature taking a strong foothold, he knew there was much to do.
But one thing working in his favor was the massive projection screen that still stands tall at the back of the property. Originally constructed in 1955, the galvanized steel screen just needs a new coat of paint and some TLC, likely saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in replacement costs, making the dream of bringing this place back to life a bit more realistic.
Add in a brand new concession building and a brand new projection unit from Belgium and things are starting to finally come into focus.
Cole purchased the property from the Colacino family who he says have been instrumental in helping to build the Newark area. He believes many residents either forget or are unaware of the people and families that helped create some of the landmarks or now serve as just a street name in town.
Originally opened in 1956, the drive-in welcomed families from around the region until it’s final showing back in 1984.
While viewing movies at home has become the new norm, Cole is hoping that a bit of nostalgia and a desire to get out of the house will bring back crowds a few times a week.
"Going to see a movie is more about the experience than the movie. I’m not only investing in myself and my family and a business, I’m also investing in people."
In addition, Cole plans to add a stage and other amenities in the future to make the property a multi-use facility for things like concerts, car shows and more.
The concession building’s shell is complete, and now Cole has started on the large rest rooms and full kitchen facilities contained inside.
As for hiring staff, Cole said it all depends on how many nights of the week they open and the other type of events the may host, but says there will certainly be some jobs created locally.
Although Cole says he doesn’t have any firm opening date, he’s projecting a tentative event late this year. "Right now I’m aiming to have everything here to do a test run this fall beginning with a friends and family showing to test everything out."
To follow progress and see the latest updates, search for Rose City Drive-In on Facebook.