Watch movies like it’s the 1950s
Imagine sitting under the stars, your radio turned up, and your favorite movie playing on the big screen. No side conversations during the movie, no one kicking the back of your seat, and no heads blocking the screen.
That is the experience available to San Diegans at the Santee Drive-In Theater, a throwback akin to a scene from a 1950s movie. There is just something about being outside under the stars in the privacy of your own car that really sets the mood.
If you’re looking for a unique date night, or just a fun night out, check out a movie at the Santee Drive-In Theater. The drive-in has been around since 1958 when it started as a one screen theater. It wasn’t until 1964 that the theater added a second screen. The theater can hold 700 cars and is open seven days a week, year-round.
The price is not much different from a regular theater at $9 for adults and $4 for kids 12 and under. You can also catch two movies for the price of one when there is a double feature. The theater accepts cash only and does not offer discounts.
The theater plays all the newest releases, and the quality of the picture is similar to that of conventional theaters. With two screens, the drive-in can play two different new releases.
A modern update to the drive-in is the audio. In the past, a speaker was attached to a poll and that hooked onto your vehicle. Now, the audio works through your car’s FM radio, so the sound varies depending on your car’s speaker system.
One of the benefits of a drive-in is the ability to bring your own food. You do not have to sneak in snacks and drinks under your coat, or beg your partner to bring a big purse.
You can bring a whole pizza, fast food, and drinks, or you can fill up an ice chest and no one will make you throw it away. If you like movie theater popcorn and candy, there is a snack bar in the center of both screens, along with clean bathrooms and an ATM.
Historically, drive-ins were known as movie theaters without all the rules. For many that grew up with drive-ins in the 1950s to 1960s, the conventional challenge was to see how many people one could sneak in.
Going to a drive-in is a bit different than a theater. There are some things that will make the experience more enjoyable.
Make sure the car you bring is comfortable. It gets chilly at night, so bring a blanket if you decide to watch the movie in the back of a truck or in the trunk of your car. You and your loved ones will be that much more comfortable. It also gives you an excuse to get closer to your date or snuggle with a friend.
If watching the movie inside the car is not desirable, folding chairs are permitted. Sitting on the vehicle, however, is not. According to Santee Drive-In’s website, larger vehicles have designated spaces to make sure everyone has prime viewing. Tall vehicles like trucks, SUVs, hatchbacks, or motorhomes taller than 65 feet are required to park in the designated yellow lines located in the back half of the theater.
The rolling hills design of the parking lot gives every spot a clear view of the screen. The varying heights of each lane and the height of the screen assures you will not be looking at the top of or in someone else’s car.
Some items that are not allowed are barbecues, skateboards, rollerblades, or scooters. Dogs and other pets are also not permitted at the drive-in.
To make the experience even better, plan ahead. The theater opens at 7 p.m., and movies start at 7:30 p.m. Make sure to get in line early, as traffic can be heavy on weekends and holidays. The theater is about thirty minutes east of campus. Be sure to come prepared with cash. For a more authentic experience, you can rent a radio from the snack bar. If you use your car and the battery dies, the snack bar staff has jumper cables.
Santee Drive-In Theater is a must in summer time. So grab some friends or a special someone and experience the movies as if it was the 1950s.
Written by: Jennifer Givens, Assistant Feature Editor