More Movie-Goers are Driving in

Special to The Press-Enterprise

Since he was laid off, Van Abbott, a 43-year-old Riverside resident has had to cut back on what he spends taking his family out.So, about twice a month, he, his wife and their 4-year-old daughter go to the Rubidoux Drive-in Theatre in Riverside.

“This is cheap entertainment. It’s $14 for the three of us,” he said recently as he stood in line at the concessions area. “By the time we’re done, we spend $25. What else can you do for $25?”Abbott’s family is one of a growing number discovering drive-in movies are an inexpensive alternative to walk-in theaters. Attendance is up more than 5 percent at the two drive-ins in Riverside, said Frank Huttinger, CEO of De Anza Land and Leisure Corp., which runs the only three drive-in theaters in the Inland Empire: Rubidoux and Van Buren drive-ins in Riverside and Mission Tiki Drive-in Theatre in Montclair.

Santa Barbara Drive-In to Reopen

Will Screen Movies for the Summer, Possibly Throughout the Year
Sunday, May 2, 2010

Just in time for the hotly anticipated summer movie crop, the Santa Barbara Drive-In Theater located at 907 South Kellogg Avenue will reopen its gates on May 7, with the screening of Paramount’s Iron Man 2.

Last month, West Wind — Santa Barbara Drive-In parent company — was asked to host a screening at its Santa Barbara location to benefit a local charity. “We were shocked at the results,” said Tony Maniscalco, VP of Marketing. “The turnout surpassed our expectations so it got us thinking about the possibility of reopening the drive-in. What really solidified our decision to reopen was a Facebook page launched after the event called ‘Re-Open the Santa Barbara Drive-In.’ In just nine days approximately 6,500 people joined.”

The reopening comes on the wings of a drive-in resurgence of sorts. “Though drive-in numbers will never be as high as they were in the 1950s, the industry seems to be on an upswing,” said a spokesperson for the United Drive-In Theater Association.

“I can’t wait [for the opening] … now that I have grandkids, they can come to the drive in like their parents used to do … open the back of the van, blankets and pillows all around,” wrote one Facebook user.

Nostalgic cinephiles will enjoy a far more technologically advanced audio-visual experience this time around. “The presentation of the picture on screen is significantly brighter than it was 19 years ago. In addition, the Dolby Digital sound is now sent through your FM car stereo speakers … the old poles and squawk box speakers are long gone,” stated the company’s announcement.

Tickets for a double feature, which all screenings will be, cost $6.75 for adults, $1.00 for 5- to 11-year-olds, and are free for children under 4 years old, with a special discount on Tuesdays.

Santa Barbara Drive-In is set to operate until the end of this summer, although there is a possibility that it will continue to operate until the end of the year, depending on attendance, said a spokesperson for West Wind.

A SoCal DIMS Event

The Southern California Drive-in Movie Society has something truly special planned for San Diego drive-in fans on July 26. Author Michael San Giacomo will be at the South Bay Drive-in that night, along with members of SoCal DIMS, to talk to drive-in enthusiasts and sign copies of his new book, a graphic novel entitled Tales of the Starlight Drive-in, recently published by Image Comics. San Giacomo recruited 23 artists from around the world to provide the visual backdrop for 32 separate stories, all set in a mythical upstate New York drive-in. The scope of the stories illustrates the history of this one drive-in (and, by extension, all drive-ins) as they moved from their peak popularity (about 11,000 screens) to the currently depleted, but still vital 400 screens nationwide. San Giacomo, a reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer and a drive-in worker in his youth, has designed the stories to stand on their own. But when read together, they form an epic novel that will cheer the souls of drive-in lovers everywhere.

San Giacomo will be attending the South Bay Drive-in on the last weekend in July with Tales of the Starlight Drive-in in conjunction with his San Diego Comic Con appearance and would love the opportunity to interact with as many of you who are interested in preserving the spirit and the popularity of drive-ins as is possible. The Southern California Drive-in Movie Society feels connected with San Giacomo in his purpose and is honored that he is joining with us in pursuit of our mutual purpose of spreading the word about the glories of the remaining drive-ins in the United States, while promoting the fascinating new literary experience he has created for those of us who hold a special place in our hearts for the drive-ins of our youth. Please join us at the South Bay Drive-in in San Diego in welcoming Michael San Giacomo to yet another special Southern California Drive-in Movie Society event!

Extreme Makeover – The Van Buren Drive-In

Yesterday the folks over at DeAnza Land and Leisure Corp, owners and operators of the Rubidoux, South Bay and Starlight Six Drive-ins as well as the beautifully revived Mission Tiki Drive-in announced their intention to work the same magic on the Van Buren Drive-in in Riverside California.

The Van Buren Drive-in Theater, located in the historic Arlington District of Riverside opened in 1964 as a classic single screen drive-in. The Van Buren’s new branding embraces The City of Riverside’s cultural heritage. The theater is currently being renovated with a California Citrus Ranch theme. Renovations will be completed for the summer season of 2008.

From the Van Burens new website the announced renovations will include the box offices, snack bar building, marquee and surrounding landscaping and will use the theming of an old California Orange Ranch. But the most striking element of this renovation will be the brand new mural that will be painted on the original screen tower that will depict a 1930’s vista of old Riverside.

You can visit their brand new website and we are told that pictures of the first phases of reconstruction will be coming our way soon. We here at SoCalDIMS will be at the Van Buren on July 26 for one of our summer tailgate parties and we of course will take plenty of pictures and video to share with the rest of you.

Drive-In Box Office Gold

We wanted to share this interesting box office tidbit that should interest all you drive-in fans out there.

From Box Office Essentials, an online industry service that film studios, marketing firms and theater owners often use to get weekend box office grosses reported some very enlightening box office returns for the weekend opening of Fred Claus starring Vince Vaughn and Paul Giamatti.

For per screen grosses covering that Friday, Saturday & Sunday

The Vineland Drive-In in the City of Industry, California ranked #1 in the country with a weekend box office take of $19,827. In fact for the entire nation the top ten theaters ranked on Box Office Essentials website, 9 of them were drive-in theaters. And of those 9, 8 of them were right here in California.

They are in order:

  1. The Vineland 4 DI (Industry, CA) – $19,827
  2. The Van Buren 3 DI (Riverside, CA) – $14,735
  3. The Capitol 6 DI (San Jose, CA) – $11,360
  4. The South Bay Triple DI (San Diego, CA) $10,115
  5. The Mission Tiki 4 DI (Montclair, CA) $9,114
  6. The Rubidoux Triple DI (Riverside, CA) $8,575
  7. The Sacramento 6 DI (Sacramento, CA) $7,898
  8. The Solano Twin DI (Concord, CA) $7,000
  9. Permian Music City 11 (Odessa, TX) $5,372 **The Only Walk-In**
  10. The Starlite 6 DI (Atlanta, GA) $5,319

Who says the drive-in movie theater is dead?

Not these numbers. Congratulations to Pacific Theatres and De Anza Land & Leisure for their efforts in keeping our Southern California drive-in theaters open and operating for all those devoted and loyal drive-in patrons that keep coming back to share this unique movie going experience with all their family and friends.

Introducing the WNYDIMS

Inspired directly by Sal and SoCalDIMS comes the Western New York Drive-in Movie Society or the WNYDIMS….

We have lost two drive-ins in the last 3 years. and we would prefer to not lose anymore.

Here is a press release we sent to the local media. Thanks for the tips and inspiration, Sal!

Local Drive-In Enthusiasts Announce Formation Of WNYDIMS

October 2, 2007 (Lockport, NY): A group of local drive-in movie enthusiasts have announced the creation of the Western New York Drive-In Movie Society of WNYDIMS for short. The group was created as a way for fans of the drive-in movie experience to gather together and share stories about their drive-in memories and to also hold regular gatherings at the remaining local drive-in theaters in Western New York. The group is currently taking new members, and there is no cost to join the organization. Anyone that is interested in getting more information is encouraged to contact WNYDIMS President George Root.

“The drive-in is about so much more than just the movie that we wanted to educate people about what they are missing out on,” Root said. According to Root, the announcement of the closing of the Buffalo Drive-In, scheduled to happen after the 2007 season, prompted the group to begin coming together and help bring awareness to the remaining drive-in theaters. “We just want everyone in Western New York to know that there are still drive-ins open in the area, and they are worth saving. It is a whole family experience without any hassles or need for a babysitter. Where else can you get two movies for the price of one and still not have to pay for someone to watch the kids?”

The WNYDIMS hopes to spend the winter organizing in anticipation of the 2008 season. The group is not only hoping for participation from drive-in fans but also from the drive-ins themselves. “Oh, sure, we want the drive-in owners to be a part of this. After all, without them, we wouldn’t have drive-in movies at all.”


WNYDIMS is an organization created solely to raise awareness for the existing drive-in movie theaters in Western New York state and to give drive-in fans a place to find more people that appreciate the drive-in experience.

She’s smart, talented & she loves the Drive-in

Everyone, say hello to Liana.
Liana, say hello to everyone.

Dennis Cozzalio and I met Liana a few months ago at the Vineland Drive-in snack bar on the night our very LAST “meet & greet” night.

Seems she was working on her final journalism project for the “Scene” magazine, a Cal State Northridge publication. Of all things this young woman of the pre/post millennial generation could have chosen to write about, Liana decided to go retro with her article and write about drive-in movie theaters. Now I am not sure if Liana even knew there were still drive-ins in or around L.A. but somehow she contacted Frank Huttinger of De Anza Land & Leisure who own the Mission Tiki as well as a few other drive-ins in SoCal.

Thru Franks good grace he recommended to Liana that she might want to talk with these crazy folks from the Southern California Drive-In Movie Society who just happen to be having a “meet & greet” night at the Vineland on that upcoming Saturday night.

So to make a long story short this lovely and talented young woman (like how I buttered her up) sat and talked with us for the better part of 2 hours and after a follow-up telephone interview a few days later Liana promised to send Dennis and I a copy of the magazine once it was published. So all these weeks later it finally arrived (just kidding : ). Since I have one copy and Dennis has another we couldn’t possibly share it with all of you… or could we? Abracadabra and thru the miracle of the electronic phenomenon known as the internet Liana has graciously posted the entire “unedited”article on her personal blog for all of us to read and share with our drive-in friends.

On behalf of the Southern California Drive-In Movie Society we want to thank you Liana for helping us spread the word that the drive-in movie theater is alive and well and still going strong.

Sal Gomez

Join the Southern California Drive-in Movie Society

Join the Southern California Drive-in Movie Society on Saturday, June 30

When we convene once again at the Mission Tiki Drive-in in Montclair, California, for the very next SoCal DIMS Tailgate Party! It’s a great way to spend some time visiting with fellow movie fans and fellow drive fans under the summer stars, and as usual the folks at the Mission Tiki are welcoming us with open arms.

We will be allowed admittance to the drive-in beginning at 6:00 p.m., which gives us plenty of time to find the best spots on the lot, carouse and mingle with your friends and ours, hit the snack bar early before the lines form, and even do a little barbecuing, if you wanna bring a grill. (The Mission Tiki has made their picnic table area available to us for just a delicious activity!) And if you’ve never done so before, come experience the fun of watching the movie outside your car with all of us– this is THE best way to see a family film like RATATOUILLE, or anything else on the four-screen lot! (Pixar Animation, by the way, literally jumps and sparkles off the screen in the Mission Tiki’s Technolight presentation.)

Remember, the gates open to SoCalDIMS members and guests ONLY at 6:00 p.m.– that’s at least an hour before the boxoffice opens to the general public. But if you’re coming out to party with us, it’s very important to remember to be on time, because the Mission Tiki is only opening the back door to us for a limited time, and if the back door is closed when you get there, you have to go back out onto Ramona Avenue and get in line right behind Mr. & Mrs. John Q. Public!

So come on out and be a part of what promises to be a great night at the movies– RATATOUILLE, plus an as-yet-undisclosed second feature (rumor has it it might be that little art film about plunderers of the deep sea that has struggled so gallantly at the box office for the past month) in spectacular Technolight glory on the big screen at the Mission Tiki Drive-in– with your friends and neighbors in the Southern California Drive-in Movie Society!

Saturday, June 30, 2007, 6:00 p.m till who knows! Be there!


On May 17th members of the local media as well as a few drive-in aficionados were treated to a preview of a new concept in drive-in movies.

Located in one section of the parking lot on the Orange County Fairgrounds, a group of baby boomers have given birth to the NEW Star Vu Drive-In. Mary Jean Duran, Jeff Teller & Bob Deutsch (forgive me if I missed someone) decided that Orange County had long been without the drive-in experience. They have now changed that for the foreseeable future. Not since the last drive-in in the O.C. was demolished more than 10 years ago has there been a drive-in to cater to local families and those from other neighboring cities. The closest they could come to was the Vineland Drive-In in the City of Industry or the Mission Tiki in Montclair.

Not anymore. The Star Vu Drive-In is located near the main entrance of the O.C. Fair Grounds. Below you will see a snapshot of the welcome card that was presented to us upon arrival.

The Westside Grill, Snack Shack as well as the restroom building are all existing structures that have existed since the fair grounds were upgraded several years ago. The Westside Grill building also houses the projection booth. Below is a short video clip that was shot with a small digital camera on preview night. It will give you an idea on the set up for this drive-in.

Several members of the media and their families were in attendance and the management of the drive-in spared no expense. The Snack Shack served up hot dogs, hamburgers, french fries, soft drinks, bottled water, finger pastries and a large celebratory cake that was cut and served to all the evenings guests. Oh and did I mention this was all complimentary.

Pre show entertainment was provided by a Dj/light Show. And Elvis also made and appearance to help kickoff the inaugural season of the Star Vu Drive-in. Oh and before I forget and in conjunction with the evenings screening of Shrek 2, Austin Powers was in attendance to spread around some good MOJO for a long and profitable life as SoCal’s newest drive-in.

Post script critique: This is a work in progress and the owners will fully admit to this. They were very open to suggestions and I am sure if you attended last night or this weekends showings you will begin to see changes in ticket taking, parking assignments and other infrastructure details that dedicated drive-in theaters may not need to deal with.

The one suggestion I have is that the larger SUV/Truck parking may need to be assigned because the sight lines may not be the best for these larger vehicles. What i mean is the screen, although large enough, does not sit tall enough to provide a clear view if you were sitting in a high profile vehicle and you happened to be parked behind another high profile vehicle. These larger cars may need to be staggered as the rows grow from 2 to 3 to 4 deep.

As far as picture brightness is concerned, some of us have been spoiled with the wonderful Technalight presentations we’ve been accustomed to at the Vineland, Mission Tiki and the Rubidoux. And although the Star Vu does have a fantastic state-of-the-art projection system, the 7,000 watt lamp house is really going to need to work to overcome the outside lighting that will bleed onto that screen. Don’t know if Technalight is a workable solution to this but maybe it’s something that can be looked at as they get further down the road.

Yet, I cannot stress enough how much we need to support this venture. With the soaring cost of land in major urban areas and the loss of enough open land, this type of drive-in model may be the norm for future drive-ins in metropolitan areas for years to come.

Grindhouse and SoCalDIMS

GrindHouse Tailgate Party Wrap-up!

On April 7th 2007 SoCal DIMS kicked off a new theme for our “Night Out” events by holding a TAILGATE Party at the Mission Tiki Drive-in in honor of the release of Tarantino/Rodriguez’s film GRINDHOUSE.

To say it was a successful night is to say the least. It was by far the most fun we’ve ever had since we started our “Night Outs” over 2 years ago.

There was food aplenty. Just like a traditional tailgate party that you would find at a ball game there was fried chicken, potato salad, pasta salad, an open B-B-Q, chips and plenty of drinks to wash it all down.

And since we had made arrangements for SoCalDIMS members to enter the drive-in early, there was plenty of time to say hello to friends, meet new ones and just simply have some drive-in fun before the start of our feature presentation.

As the time approached for the film to start, Dennis Cozzalio and I escorted Warren Meyers to the projection booth to use the P.A. system so we could thank all our SoCalDIMS friends and the regular drive-in guests for coming out and supporting the drive-in experience.

A special thank you to Frank Huttinger and Teri Oldknow for their usual wonderful hospitality and to Todd Williams and Doug Davis of the Mission Tiki Drive-In. What a great night and a wonderful way for all of us to kick-off the 2007 summer movie season…. UNDER THE STARS !