The large movie screen which entertained hundreds of Porterville-area residents during the heyday of the drive-in theater era, did not go down easily Monday.

Housley Demolition began work Monday afternoon to knock down the large, steel-beam supported structure, but after hours of cutting the beams with a blow torch, the screen still stood for another day.

Finally, Tuesday morning, crews used a large piece of equipment to push the screen over and when it came down, also came the end of an era when sitting in your car watching a movie was vogue.

Workers are clearing the large lot which once was home to the Porterville Drive-In Theater. The property was recently purchased by the Burton School District which agreed to clean up the area, including removing the two screens.

Burton has not announced what its intentions are for the property. It is a large parcel and school officials have said it could be used for a new school site, a district office or a bus barn, or a combination of any of the three. There are no immediate plans to build at the site.

The big screen on the southwest corner of the property at Newcomb Street and Tomah Avenue was sturdy. One of the workman said after cutting into the steel beams that whoever made it was phenomenal and that it could have withstood a nuclear holocaust.

“That screen was a lot stronger than anyone anticipated,” said Brian Kleinkopf, general manager for Housley, which is out of Visalia. He said he was told it was constructed in the early 1950s.

He said they felt that if they made a deep cut into six of the seven beams, the more than 85-foot tall by 110-foot wide structure would simply bend over and fall. However, after they completed the cut in the sixth beam, the screen stayed there solidly. Even the pigeons did not move.

So, they cut into the seventh beam and after more than two hours of cutting, it still stayed, refusing to go easily.

Several residents stopped to watch the last show as the workers cut into the beams and then pushed it over.

On Tuesday morning, they brought in a large excavator which pushed it over, finally bringing to an end the era of the drive-in theater in Porterville.

Kleinkopf said a person in Springville has expressed interest in the beams because he wants to open a drive-in theater near Springville, but most likely the screen will be cut up and hauled away.

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