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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

DRIVE-IN MOVIES, Teen Paradise of Days Gone By

by Steven Lane (writer), Simi valley, Ca and Austin, Tx., December 08, 2006

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Drive-In theaters, what a great concept! In the early fifties when I was a little kid, my dad and mom packed up the station wagon, threw my brother and sisters and myself in the car and off we went. He would park the 1951 De Soto woody backwards, throw down the tailgate and it was ON.
We were released to graze down by the swing sets or sit on the benches up front. That was quite a sight, five welded little heads pointed straight up, eyes trying to take in the whole screen from about fifteen feet away. If we got tired, we just crawled into my mom's lap or grabbed an unoccupied seat.
You were in a safe haven. No one worried about you or who was in the next car. It was like a giant block party.
Movies, fun and food, I can, still, to this day, recall that very distinct smell of what was referred to as pizza. Drive-In pizza was definitely something special. It was an unforgettable combination of tomato sauce, sprinkled with some unknown cheesy matter, served on a beautiful cardboardish crust. Yum!
Those were days of two movies at every performance. You got and "A" or even a "B" list film and a low budget "Second Feature" that was made for some chump change. There were lot's of "Westerns" and they threw in a couple of cartoons. We are talking a four hour experience here, and I don't we ever left early. When you are five years old this was a sweet deal.

By the time I turned fifteen, drive-ins had taken on a whole new meaning in my life. Inside those fenced walls, conveniently corralled, one might say, were car loads of unsupervised young ladies.
The teenage years were difficult ones financially, and my friends and I had to be inventive in our attempts to enter these asphalt heavens. The days of having one guy pay and then just sticking five guys in the trunk of the car were gone. An usher on a bicycle simply would follow you in and wait for you to come up for air. With ingenuity and planning, we devised our own personal entry scenarios for our three favorite venues.
If visiting the Canoga Drive-In, (later know as the Winnetka Drive-In) a wooden board was carried in the car. A lookout was sent. An all clear whistle would sound. Quickly, the board was placed over the chrome tire eating spike strips that protected the dark exit. With all lights out, we slowly backed in the "exit". Poof! The Garden of Eden was laid open and not a penny spent.
The Reseda Drive-In required more direct individual participation. The designated driver would drop everyone but himself off in the nearby industrial park. The single driver would buy a ticket and enter. This ALWAYS brought an usher, for some reason, management found it unusual that a single teenage boy might go to the drive-in by himself. After, thirty minutes or so, the usher would give up and leave. Then, like a Viking hoard we would scale an unlit portion of the fence. Immediate disbursal in different directions was required. They might catch one but never more.
I saved the best for last. The Sepulveda Drive-In, Van Nuys.
In the summer, it was possible that we would visit this establishment as many a six times a week. We always paid the full ticket price. We never even tried to sneak in. However, the event planning was a little more detailed. Usually, it went like this, four cars with four or five people in each would meet at a specified time and place. The sixteen to twenty people would then cram into the biggest car, usually a station wagon. Hanging out the windows was the norm. The station wagon was driven to the box office and tickets were bought. Once inside, watches were synchronized and a exit time agreed. Everyone then disbursed in search of new love unknown.
You see the Sepulveda Drive-In's price of entry was $.99 a car load!


About the Writer

Steven Lane is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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11 comments on DRIVE-IN MOVIES, Teen Paradise of Days Gone By

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By Ariel on December 08, 2006 at 11:11 am
Interesting! Are there still drive-ins in Los Angeles? If yes, do you know where they are and how much a ticket cost?
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By Steven Lane on December 08, 2006 at 01:06 pm
Unfortunately, I think they have all gone the way of the dinosaur. There was a major decline in attendance in the eighties. Couple this with the escalation in land values and it was pretty much over.
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By V on December 08, 2006 at 05:28 pm
I can only dream about such times. Which I do acutally, probably more than is normal. There must be one somewhere right?
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By drive-in nut on January 14, 2007 at 08:29 pm
The Canoga and Winnetka were two different drive-in's The Canoga was on the corner of Canoga Avenue and Strathern St. in Canoga Park right down the street from Lanark Park, The Winnetka drive-in was on Winnetka near Prairie where Winnetka used to end at the railroad tracks in Chatsworth matter of fact it is a Pacific walk in mega theater now and the Canoga is industrial the Winnetka replaced the canoga when it was sold for development. There is still a drive-in in Los Angeles the Vineland $7.00 per person for first run movies in City Of Industry it is listed in the Los Angeles Times movie section.
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By Steven Lane on January 15, 2007 at 02:24 am
You are right, the Canoga was a single and the Winnetka was a 4 plex I think.
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By drive-in nut on January 15, 2007 at 02:49 am
I forgot to mention the Vineland is a double feature on all four screens and pacific has dumped a load of cash into it in the last couple of years in the six figures so I think it will be around for a while a new screen to replace the original and a new marque. to see what is showing goto this site http://www.drive-ins.com/showing/catvine this is the last Pacific Drive-Ins best day to go is sunday so the traffic is light. The Sepulveda drive-in is an MTA parking lot for the orange line in the shape of a drive-in it even still slopes toward where the screen used to be.
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By Ariel on January 15, 2007 at 10:50 am
Sweet! I've never been to a drive-in! I wanna give that a try!
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By Steven Lane on January 15, 2007 at 01:26 pm
Thanks for the info. You should write a full story about drive-ins today, many many people have never had the experience. I, for one, would be very interested. Steve
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By Geddy on June 30, 2007 at 12:59 am
We must be close to the same age; I too remember drive-ins fondly. I still think of the first horror flick I saw at one. *shudder* I recall one in my neighborhood that switched to porno films to try and attract the dwindling supply of moviegoers back then. You should have seen all the teens that tried to sneak in there!
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By madmax427 on March 31, 2008 at 10:17 am

Yeah, the "Good Old Days"! Delta, Co STILL has an operational drive-in. Now IF only the Movies played would be worth going to! (Too old for the backseat gym class, So I gotta watch the Flick!)

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By Hunter Addams on April 24, 2008 at 02:34 am

I'm too young to have been to a drive-in. And, i don't have a car either. (mass transit is just cheaper, especially with gas prices as of late) But, i will say this. If a drive-in theater opened nearby, i'd have a car by weeks end, just for the purpose of going there. The closest one is 60+ miles from here; a 2 hour drive each way (cause driving through manhattan youre not getting any faster than 25mph), nearly $30 for gas, + the $8 to get in, and the possiblity the movie will suck. Pretty much kills the excitement of making it there. One day.. one day..

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