Demolition crews planned to destroy the last remaining drive-in theater screens in Tucson Tuesday, but a historical-preservation enthusiast coaxed the owner into letting the two screens remain until he can find a way to dismantle them.

Charles Spillar, who found homes for several giant sculptures that used to stand at the Magic Carpet miniature-golf course, wants to use two screens at the shut-down De Anza Drive-In, 1401 S. Alvernon Way, to open a new theater called the Cactus Drive-In as a tribute to the De Anza's former name.

"At least for now, I feel like I put my body between the bulldozers and saved the screens," Spillar said. "We've got some breathing room."

The De Anza closed last year, and Evergreen Devco Inc., with offices in Phoenix and Glendale, Calif., bought 20 acres from the De Anza Land and Leisure Corp. in October.

Laura Ortiz, principal of Evergreen, came to Tucson Tuesday to supervise the demolition, which was scheduled to destroy every structure on the property. Ortiz said the Tucson Police Department told her firm that the vacant property had become a hotbed for graffiti, drugs and prostitution.

She said Spillar persuaded her Tuesday to give the two screens a stay of execution while he put together a fundraiser to dismantle the screens and stow them away for use in the new drive-in.

"We're holding off right now, trying to work with Charles Spillar to get the screens dismantled," Ortiz said, adding that Evergreen has no immediate plans for the property and that the company is open to letting Spillar host a movie-themed fundraiser on the site.

The larger screen appears to be about 40 feet tall and 60 feet wide, and the smaller one is 30 by 45 feet. Both are about 3 feet deep.

Spillar, who said he hopes to stage a fundraiser within the next month or two, said he's negotiating with the city for property to build his drive-in. He doesn't have money for the venture, but he said he's hoping that donors will come through.

"We're looking for angels to come out of the sky for us right now," Spillar added.

Contact reporter Phil Villarreal at 573-4130 or