Ahhh…..those nights at the local drive-in!
Remember how, as teenagers, there would be 6 of us crammed in the FJ or the Zephyr and one hiding in the boot, as we’d head off to the drive-in for some innocent fun and some hi-jinx and to watch a movie of course.
Later, and a little older, it was the ideal place to take the new girlfriend for some serious pashing and as much as you could get away with! (Mind you, that was never very much)!
Drive-in pictures theatres were a phenomenon of the latter half of last century and many baby boomers I’m sure will remember nights of their lost youth spent in a crowded car with good friends at the local drive-in.
Australia’s first drive-in was the Skyline which opened in the Melbourne suburb of Burwood on 18 February 1954 showing the musical comedy On The Riviera starring Danny Kaye. On the first night there was traffic chaos as 2,000 cars competed for the 600 spaces. After paying at the entrance you drove into the parking area and pulled up next to one of the many posts in rows all over the site. This post housed a pair of speakers with volume control which you’d attach to the inside of your car window.
Drive-in theatres began popping up all over Sydney throughout the 50s. Two Skyline drive-ins opened at the suburbs of Frenchs Forest and Dundas. The El Rancho drive-in at Fairfield opened a year later in 1957 with a Wild West theme complete with a chuck wagon for quick service meals, a ‘kiddies korral’ and brightly-costumed cowboys and cowgirls directing cars and providing service to patrons. By the mid-1960s Sydney also had Skylines at Bass Hill, Caringbah and North Ryde, a Metro-Twin at Chullora and the Star at Matraville.
Queensland had at one stage over fifty drive-ins. Brisbane’s first drive-in was the Capalaba which opened in 1955 and now all of the suburban Brisbane drive-in theatres have closed leaving the Tivoli Drive-In in Ipswich, and the Gold Coast’s Yatala as the closest drive-in theatres to Brisbane. In rural Queensland however, there are still a number of drive-in theatres operating.
The first conventional drive-in located in Western Australia was the Highway which opened in the Perth suburb of Bentley in October 1955
The Blue-Line drive-in located in West Beach Adelaide was the first drive-in located in South Australia, and the first to be constructed outside of Melbourne. It was opened on 28 December 1954,
Drive-ins were especially popular with courting couples and those on first dates, providing much more privacy than the picture theatre. For families it was a fairly inexpensive night out. The kids would come out in their pyjamas and would pile into the back seat on a mountain of pillows and blankets while parents didn’t have to go to the effort of dressing up. And of course cars full of teenagers would smuggle in a few extra friends for free by hiding them in the boot.
In those early years there were two nightly sessions, the first starting at 8pm, and the late show at 10pm. Visibility of the screen from the road created a problem for both drive-ins and local councils as many
cars parked in the streets and roads outside the drive-in hoping to watch the screen without paying. Many local council decided to take action against motorists parking on the roads and introduced fines and parking restrictions.
It’s great fun to think back to that era and remember those cold wintery nights when all the windows would fog up and you were continually wiping the windscreen to watch the film, or the nights when it rained and some cars had to run their engines to get their windscreen wipers working.
Remember too, driving off with the speaker still attached to the rear window or trying to smuggle extra kids in by having one or two hiding in the boot?
There were flat batteries and flat tyres, fun times and very romantic moments as well.
The drive-in picture theatre is now pretty much just a memory but they were great times and you know the scary thing is, it doesn’t seem all that long ago!
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