SoCalDIMS Visits the Santa Barbara Drive-In
When people think of Santa Barbara , they think of beaches, shopping, Amtrak, and fine dining. But drive-in theatres? Well, thanks to chance circumstances,West Wind has reopened the Santa Barbara Drive-In Theatre in Goleta ,just a few exits north of Santa Barbara ’s State Street . And what a theatre itis…just like Rocky, this drive-in certainly goes the distance! Opened in 1968 as a twin screener, the Santa Barbara Drive-In closed in 1991. However the Public Market swap meet has run continuously on the property, negating any disrepair or vandalism usually imminent once a drive in goes dark. The second screen was removed several years ago after blowing down in a windstorm, but the second lot and projection booth are intact and house the area for the Market.
SoCalDIMS was very excited to learn of this theatre’sreopening, but it took us awhile to check things out. Finally, in August 2010,we were able to go road tripping to Santa Barbara to get a first hand look at this wonderful newaddition to the SoCal drive-in landscape.
The Santa Barbara Drive-In offers ridiculously easy freeway access: from the 101 take the exit for 217 and the airport, get off and turn right on Hollister, and then left on Kellog a couple of blocks down. The drive in sits just around the bend from a row of car dealerships, hidden from view. As there is no businesses in the immediate vicinity, there is no light pollution, and once the sun sets the night sky dazzles with such an array of twinkling stars you think you’ve suddenly been transported to Arizona or Alabama . The cool ocean breeze makes viewing an outdoor movie quite pleasant, with no trace of smog or mosquitos!
I was not expecting the rural country charm of this wonderful drive-in. The Syufy snack bar is a sight to behold, with its curved dome and wonderfully vintage supports. The food was delicious,featuring Nathan’s hot dogs, hamburgers, churros, ice cream treats,candy, and tasty popcorn! The prices were very reasonable, and there was room to sit on the patio and enjoy your meal. I especially loved the drive-in collector cup with retro graphics!
The lot holds up to 500 cars and the staff was very friendly and helpful. There is a parking attendant to make sure taller vehicles park behind the first few rows to ensure good viewing for cars. Having one of these larger vehicles was not a problem as the view was perfect from where I was as well. The crowd was very excited to be at the drive-in: many set up lawn chairs and some brought their dogs! One patron proudly told others that it was his first drive-in visit ever and he was having a great time.
The Santa Barbara Drive-In sits next to the Santa Barbara Airport , and occasionally planes descended along the back of the property. Noise was never a problem while we were there, and I enjoyed watching their descent into the setting sun. Once The movies started, the projection was very bright, and the sound quality ofthe films (through your car speakers or portable radio) was excellent.
Manager Ken Krummes was very welcoming and his pride for this theatre was evident. He said the reopening came about due to a request from a local charity to rent the theatre for a special movie night. Initial Plans were delayed, but once the event took place it was a huge success, and soon after a Facebook page was launched campaigning for the permanent reopening of the theatre. West Wind, who had previously reopened a drive-in in Concord , CA ,decided to give it a try, and the Santa Barbara Drive-In opened in May for atrial summer run.
Upcoming events at the theatre include a free movie night on September 16, 2010. Gates will open at 6pm for an 8pm showing of“Inception” followed by ”The A-Team.” There will be music and games for the kids, and free movie nights will hopefully become an annual event. I’m sure there will be plenty of fun and excitement forall! I really hope this theatre is successful and remains in operation. Hopefully the nearby college students will support it, and day-trippers to Santa Barbara will include it on their agenda before heading back home. The drive-in has a Facebook page (SantaBarbara) which posts movie times and news updates, and the West Wind site also has it listed with their other theatres.
We here at SoCalDIMS certainly plan to patronize this theatre as much as possible, and hopefully it will be around to for many years to come. We can’t wait to go back!