“There are no speakers. It’s a low-frequency FM broadcast."
On July 17, at about sunset, some “Rosaritenses” flocked to their beach adjacent to Abelardo L. Rodríguez Park; a block west from Federal Highway 1. The occupants of the predominantly packed vehicles were greeted by a Tijuana Zonkeys-looking mascot and Rosarito mayor Araceli Brown and her entourage.
“We are going to watch [Maleficent] …. at 9 pm tonight,” Brown said on a Facebook Live video, “we still have time — come by with the whole family.”
“But what about the waves?”
DIF, a social service agency of the Mexican government, recently transformed the beachfront property into Auto Cinema, a drive-in movie theatre similar to our South Bay and Santee drive-ins — where vehicles are parked and the occupants can watch the movie through the windshield. Sometimes, truck and station wagon drivers park backward, and the occupants can lie down and watch the movie from the back of their vehicles.
Friday was the beachfront theatre’s grand opening; the news and preview posts were shared over 300 times on Facebook.
“OMG, how cool,” Bianca commented, “but after a while, I want to walk to the ocean.”
“But what about the waves?” Juan questioned, “won’t the noise affect the movie experience?”
Aside from Juan, nobody else commented about the 3-4 foot waves crashing close by, and interrupting Angelina Jolie’s translated audio.
“[There are] no speakers,” posted Lynn, a Grossmont College alumna, “it’s a low-frequency FM broadcast that we can tune into from our home.” Her accompanying Facebook photo was taken from an elevated vantage point depicting two giant movie screens with 20-plus vehicles in the frame. According to Mexican news reports, the drive-in accommodates 100 cars or trucks and has a third movie screen. I reached out to DIF on July 20, and as of press time they didn’t respond; they did confirm on their Facebook that the audio is transmitted via a car radio signal, and the drive-in was built to raise funds for the institution’s support programs. The entrance fee on Friday was 200 pesos ($8.86 USD) per vehicle, and the following day, they showed Guardians of the Galaxy and Relentless.
Araceli Brown (in gray dress) cuts the ribbon.
Mario, a local movie buff, saw the online previews of the beachfront drive-in that’s about 23 miles south of his favorite movie spot, South Bay Drive In.
“Drive-ins will make a comeback, watch,” he opined. “Walk in theaters aren’t open yet, and we are tired of streaming during this pandemic. I like to see big action on a big screen, and because I have a thumping sound system in my car — it’s as if you’re part of the movie. If lockdowns continue, and social distancing becomes the norm, drive-ins are the wave of the future.”
Marco, a computer tech from Rosarito, reminisced, when he saw the sneak preview online of the drive-in theatre that’s about a five-minute stroll north of Rosarito Beach Pier.
“Drive-in movie theaters back then taught me so much. Not a whole lot from what was happening on the screen, but what was happening while walking [past] rows of rocking cars on my way to the kiosk to buy popcorn. I had to dodge the cables from the poles and speaker hanging on the partly open windows; there was no Bluetooth back then. [It was] hard to see through some of the steamed-up windows, though. Yup, quite an education for a kid way back when ….. the ’60s were a blast. I say bring it all back.”
On July 11, Tijuana’s Bigmoon Auto Cinema showed the circa 1986, Queen: Live At Wembley Stadium concert video. As Freddie Mercury is seen singing on the 100-foot movie screen and heard via the venue’s loudspeakers, gyrating spotlights on each side of the screen are beaming colored lights through the smoke emitting from the fog machines.
“Do you guys want to see Michael Jackson, Metallica, Led Zeppelin …. in open air like we are now?” asked a Bigmoon Auto Cinema rep on their Facebook live.
“Bro, that’s what’s up,” responded Mario, “with concerts canceled…. dude — I’d love to watch classic concerts and movies on a big screen with 4D [like] effects. I don’t think they offer that here in San Diego.”
The circa-2017 drive-in theatre can accommodate 60 vehicles and is about nine miles southeast of the San Ysidro/Tijuana border.