Around this period, multi-feature theme shows often ran from dusk till dawn, such as all-night Planet of the Apes marathons and back-to-back horror movies. Cult movies attracted cult crowds. I recall a late-'79 showing of Roller Boogie with countless patrons attempting to navigate the lot on roller skates, finding the graded hills fairly deadly to the knees and shins, much to the hysteria of my companions and me (disco-haters one and all, we were there to see Linda Blair's skimpy outfits).
In the theater's final years, a deal was made with a nearby apartment building wherein a special room would be built behind the apartments with a wall-sized window facing one of the drive-in screens. Movie sound was to be piped in for a few dozen viewers seated in theater-style chairs. The apartment complex was to pay the theater $500 a month for this privilege, but it's unclear if construction on the movie room was ever completed before the Frontier shut down in September 1985. "That sounds like something De Anza would do," laughs Teri Oldknow, "and, really, all they had to do was point the FM sound at the apartment building. There were always little side deals being made to squeeze a few extra dollars somehow."
A December 3, 1985, city council meeting presided over by Mayor Roger Hedgecock detailed the rezoning of what was then referred to as "Midway Mall," covering 15 acres of the Frontier Drive-In's former property. The lot was eventually occupied by a shopping center.
When the Big Sky Drive-In opened in 1955 at 2245 Main Street in Chula Vista, its car capacity of 2000 made it one of the four largest ozones in the U.S. (Los Aitos in Long Beach held 2100 while the 41 Twin in Franklin, Wisconsin, and the Twin Open Air in Oak Lawn, Illinois, were the same size as the Big Sky.) One 1967 showing at this Sero Amusements property of The Undertaker and His Pals (motorcyclists who club women on the head to drum up business for their funeral home and diner) was advertised as having "a professional nurse on duty at all times, in case our movie gives you a heart attack."
Both of the Big Sky's exit paths were booby-trapped with a device called "Traffic-Trol." This featured spring-loaded spikes that retracted when driven over by exiting cars but shredded the tires of larcenous gate-crashers attempting to enter the lot via the exit gates. These indiscriminate car-killers became staples at most area ozones, though more than one enterprising miscreant figured out that short plywood ramps placed over the spikes enabled a careful driver to cross over them.
This drive-in went dark in July 1980 with two ultracool final features: The Blues Brothers and Cheech and Chong's Next Movie. After closing, the abandoned snack bar became notorious as a homeless hangout, where at least one violent sexual assault occurred. An industrial park was eventually built on the property.
The Alvarado Drive-In at 7910 El Cajon Boulevard in La Mesa was located near Interstate 8, west of Baltimore Drive, with its entrance on the Boulevard. It seems to have opened in the early '60s, though advertising for this ozone is scarce and details are hard to confirm. Its first appearance in the annual Theatre Guide books is 1961, listed as being operated by "Lanford & Long," with a car capacity of 900. Early on, members and supporters of the Motion Picture Projectionist Local 297 picketed the Alvarado lot because non-union help was said to be running the booth equipment. Owners eventually agreed to switch to union projectionists.
In July 1969, operators formed Alvarado Drive-In Theatre Inc. In January 1972, the business was purchased by Syufy Century Theatres Inc. of San Francisco, which ran several other indoor and outdoor California screens. Within a few years, the Mann Theatres chain came to run this drive-in, if it didn't outright own it. In the late '70s, daytime Sunday church services were being held on the lot. The Alvarado appears to have closed around 1980, to be replaced by a Best market, a Godfather's Pizza, an El Torito, and other strip-mall shops.
The Tu-Vu Drive-In at 5535 Kearny Villa Road, as its name implies, featured two screens and a total car capacity of 650. When the Tu-Vu opened in 1958, the snack bar had 80 feet of counter space, and two large picture windows on either side allowed patrons to keep an eye on both screens while lining up for snacks and drinks.
The lot was originally run by Empire Drive-In Theatres, who leased the property and purchased the equipment. On September 30, 1958, all the drive-in's assets were transferred to the Tu-Vu Drive-In Corporation (incorporated September 22, 1958), owned by William D. Russo (listed as company president), along with a woman named Della M. Ashkins and a third party. Tu-Vu agreed to assume and pay the rental prescribed by the master lease; to assume and pay the equipment sales contract obligation, which amounted to $58,652.10; to pay into escrow the sum of $23,840, which was to be used to pay Empire's creditors in full; and to pay $6160 toward additional construction work. Tu-Vu took possession of the theater, operated it and paid the prescribed rental (amounting to approximately $32,000; it paid between $30,000 and $35,000 on the conditional sales contract), and deposited about $30,000 into escrow.
By 1961, the Tu-Vu's partnership dissolved into several lawsuits. At the time of Tu-Vu Drive-In Corp. v. Ashkins (61 C2d 283), plaintiff Russo owned 54 percent of the Tu-Vu Drive-In Corporation stock, defendant Ashkins owned 39 percent, and a third party owned 7 percent. The corporation, by the written consent of Russo as majority stockholder, had adopted a bylaw in 1960 stipulating that Tu-Vu shares could only be transferred to an outsider if the owner of those shares first offered them to the other shareholders, at the same price and under the same terms.
On December 7, 1960, Russo obtained an option to purchase Ashkins' stock. Russo relinquished the option on January 7, 1961. Tu-Vu issued new stock certificates containing the new bylaw restriction, placing the certificates in escrow on January 31 with the commissioner of corporations. Apparently, neither Russo nor the corporation ever gave Ashkins actual notice of the new bylaw. Ashkins then went out shopping for an outside buyer for her shares, apparently unaware of the new requirement to first offer the stock to Russo and their other partner.
Related feature: Intermission