Posted by ws1 on:
On Tuesday night I went to the newly re-opened drive-in with some friends to see 'The Other Guys' (the new Will Ferrel/Marky Mark flick). Our friends in their car, my girlfriend and I in mine. While sitting there, over-dosing on Good 'n Pletny's, green tea, and Junior Mints (don't ask why), I realized that - aside from my self-inflicted sugar nausea - drive-in's are awesome.
First Reason: Almost complete control. You get to manipulate your own environment much more than you would in a regular theater. We determined our volume, temperature, food, company and distance from the screen. I am not sure if I've ever sounded this American, but it was pretty swell.
Second Reason: People are fun. When we pulled in the first movie, The Last Exorcism was still wrapping-up. After parking and turning off our lights, we noticed several dark shadows get out of a car and creep up on another vehicle nearby. We then heard a 'RAAARH!!' followed by a shriek and a 'I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU BRIAN! GODDAMNIT JACOB!!". As the shadows retreated giddily back to their Civic, everyone applauded.
Third Reason: Making out. Yes. That's right. I made out with my girlfriend during a chase scene. Shoot me. Oh wait, you can't. I'm in my car. With my girlfriend. Making out.
Fourth Reason: It's cheap. We paid $4.75 each (tuesday special). Most nights adults are $6.75.
Fifth Reason: Making Out. Still worthy of a being the fifth reason. Don't argue with me.
Fast forward to Thursday. I was at my desk, procrastinating and thinking about something I had heard, about the drive-in only staying open for this summer as 'an experiment' to see if it was viable venture here in Santa Barbara.
I figured I'd call the parent company that owns West-Wind.
I had a nice conversation with Tony Maniscalco (VP of Marketing) at Syufy Enterprises (the San Rafael Company that owns the place) this afternoon about the future of my new favorite spot.
Before answering, he gave me a quick rundown on the history of the drive-in. Here is my version:
1966: Theatre opens, my parents are teenagers, showing some knee was scandalous. People made-out in their cars and watched movies like the Endless Summer.
1967-1991: Lots of happy drive-in customers. Psycho, Easy Rider, Blade Runner, Lobster Man from Mars, Buckaroo Bonzai and the 8th Dimension.
1991: Metropolitan Theaters, who ran the place for Syufy decided it was no longer worth their while (lot's of cool stuff died in the early nineties) and the place went dark but continued to be used as a venue for the local Swap Meet.
1992-2009: Lot's of locals like me were deprived of their all-american coming-of-age snogg at a drive-in movie.
2010: SMHS (go Royals!) senior Niqui O'Ne ill pitched a screening of Ferris Bueller's Day Off as a benefit for Haiti Earthquake relief. Syufi agreed, and after a bit of fixing and fiddling with the projector room and equipment, and a new coat of paint on the screen (thanks to Niqui and friends), the drive-in was once again operational.
After an overwhelmingly positive response from the community (and raising almost 4k for Haitian earthquake victims), she started the "Re-Open the Santa Barbara Drive-In" Facebook group, which after swiftly swelling to thousands of members, prompted Syufy Enterprises to re-visit the logic that persuaded them to let it close in 1991.
Santa Barbara Drive-In re-opened in the late spring/early summer of 2010 and has been showing first-run movies all season.
Tony also did his best to answer my question about whether or not the drive-in would remain open after this summer. He said that based on the positive response from the community, the theater will 'absolutely' be open next summer. As for the fall and winter, he said that they're "playing it by ear". " We're going to see how it goes" Suggesting hopefully that that though attitudes towards movies have changed since the 60's..people in other parts of the state attend drive-in's in the 'weather'. "We aren't yet sure if folks in Santa Barbara would go see a movie in the fog or the rain-" I interrupted him to say that I could think of a reason ( if you aren't clear on why, see #'s 3 and 5 above). He laughed, "I'm not going to comment on that."
Also: You may want to check out Santa Barbara Drive-In's (free/open to the public) Customer Appreciation Night on September 30th, which sounds pretty awesome. I'll update this post with the exact time later today :)
More on the Drive-In via the Indy.