Drive-In Theater Culture Returns to the OC

In his New Jersey driveway around 1932, 30-something Richard M. Hollingshead, Jr. arranged a Kodak projector on the hood of his car to aim at a white sheet nailed to some trees. He positioned a radio behind the sheet. Integrating baby-booming America’s two most revered pursuits, Hollingshead, Jr. elementally created what he would call an ‘open-air movie theater, a place where people could sit in their cars and watch a movie without ever opening the door,’ or what America would know as ‘the drive-in.’
Hollingshead patented his idea and, with the help of the mass production of automobiles and the baby-boomer population, the number of drive-in theaters increased. By 1958, there were 4,063 drive-ins nationwide. Through the 1960s, however, the number of drive-ins began to plunge. The short-lived cultural trend was slowly giving way to the production of videocassettes and cable television.
Now, there are only about 400 drive-ins in the United States, 20 in California and none in proximity to UC Irvine. Former drive-ins have become the sites for swap meets, K-Marts and hardware stores. The last functioning drive-in in Orange County closed in 1997 and is now a Wal-Mart.
To bring back the drive-in culture, enhanced with state-of-the-art technology, four nostalgic babyboomers are opening the Star-Vu Drive-In this Friday. The gates open at 7 p.m. and the first public showing will commence at 8 p.m. with Shrek 3.
Star-Vu will be the first new drive-in in Southern California since the 1960s and will be the first time in a decade that a drive-in movie will be shown in Orange County. The idea began with Fred Armendariz, the CEO of Community Communications Network USA, while working for the Bush Administration in Washington D.C. The annual movie festival in front of the Capital led Armendariz to think, ‘We have the weather to support this type of event almost 12 months of the year.’
Since then, he has worked with OC Drive-In, LLC to erect Star-Vu Drive-In. The Star-Vu Drive-In is located on the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa. It is off the 55 freeway at the Del Mar/Fair Drive exit and the ground can hold up to 300 cars.
The 65-feet-by-33-feet screen is a standard theatrical screen surface and one of the only three in the country. Studio quality sounds will be delivered by FM transmission.
Star-Vu Drive-In will function every night, year-round. There are also restrooms and a children’s play area with inflatable slides.
The general admission price for those 13 years and older is $8.50. It is $5 for children aged five to 12 and free for children under four.