There is nothing more distinctly American than a drive-in movie theater. All the patriotic elements are there: lazy convenience, worship of the car culture and the frenzied consumption of sugary foods and drinks. It is as American as apple pie and racial tension.
Over the years, however, the allure of the drive-in began to decline. Megaplexes started to take hold and drive-ins lost money, eventually turning into dingy swap meets. Anyone who wanted to relive the “glory days” of mid-century America had to look down other avenues such as chain smoking and wife-beating (Which is why Mad Men is so popular).
Fortunately for us Empireans (if that’s not a term I am coining it now), our blessed region boasts a whopping three drive-in movie theaters: The Rubidoux Drive-In, the Van Buren Drive-In and the Mission Tiki Drive-In.
The Rubidoux Drive-In (located at 3770 Opal St.) has been a SoCal staple since it was established in 1948 by a local businessman looking to alleviate America’s post-war jitters with the magic of cinema. It boasts three huge screens that show nightly double features, with each screen catering to a different crowd: A family film screen, a cool Rated R screen and an epic summer blockbuster screen. For years, the Rubidoux Drive-In has been a favorite for locals who want to watch classics such as “Ice Age: Continental Drift” from the comfort of their lifted Silverados.
Just when you thought the people of Riverside weren’t spoiled enough, the city has another popular drive-in at their disposal. The Van Buren Drive-in (located at 3035 Van Buren Blvd.) has been around since 1964 and has thrilled Riverside reel-heads for generations. Recently remodeled in 2007 after the property fell into disrepair, the Van Buren Drive-in boasts three beautiful screens showing back to back films for an incredibly inexpensive seven dollars per person. If you still don’t feel like paying that much, you can always sneak into the theater in the trunk of your best friend’s Civic. Just don’t yell at me when you eventually get caught.
Not wanting to be outdone by Riverside, Montclair, Claremont’s crazy party girl sister, is home to the Mission Tiki Drive-In. Established in 1956 and refurbished 50 years later, ‘The Mission’ (located at 4407 State St.) boasts four massive screens with a delightfully campy island theme. In the daytime, The Mission also holds swap meets, car shows, festivals, private events and pretty much anything one can legally do on a vacant parking lot. For years, The Mission has been a favorite among people in the western corridor of the Inland Empire and is an ideal place to test out your new tint job by trying to make out with your date while watching “Madea’s Witness Protection.”
With the overwhelming popularity of these three relics of the past, it can be safely said that the spirit of 1950s America continues to live on. With the warmest summer on record roasting the Inland Valley, sometimes the best thing you can do is sit in your air conditioned car and watch a cheesy summer movie.