Laurene Weste | A golden era makes its triumphant return with City Cinemas

Mayor ProTem Laurene Weste

The drive-in movie has been a hallmark of the film industry and the moviegoing experience for more than a century. People all over the world have flocked to these outdoor cinemas to watch movies in their car from the time that the Theatre de Guadalupe offered outdoor spots for vehicles and auditorium seating in Las Cruces, New Mexico, in 1915. 

The first patented drive-in theater opened in 1933 in Pennsauken Township, New Jersey, after Richard M. Hollingshead Jr. conducted a number of tests in his driveway and backyard to find the perfect setup, including the angle of car stalls, location of the projector and ideal audio system. That led to a boom of more than 4,100 drive-in theaters opening across the United States after the conclusion of World War II. 

Santa Clarita residents joined the drive-in movie craze when the Corral Drive-In opened on San Francisquito Canyon Road in Seco Canyon in April 1957. Located on the site of present-day Grace Baptist Church, the Corral featured spaces for more than 400 cars, a large concession stand and a towering 35-by-70-foot screen. 

The Mustang Drive-In opened in May 1966 and was centrally located in the Santa Clarita Valley, attracting residents from throughout the region. It sat near the intersection of Soledad Canyon Road and Valley Center Drive in an area known to longtime residents as Honby. While the Mustang closed in 1984, it continued to play a role in our history as the city of Santa Clarita set up temporary administrative offices there before moving to the current City Hall on Valencia Boulevard. 

Though these two iconic locations saw their final patrons drive off the lot decades ago, the city is helping drive-ins make a triumphant return with the debut of City Cinemas at East Walker Ranch Open Space. This is one of my favorite things about Santa Clarita.  If there’s a problem, we adjust and adapt to overcome it. City Cinemas encourages individuals and families alike to rediscover the magic of piling into the car, loading up on snacks and having an entertaining evening while watching one of your favorite movies. 

This experience begins even before your car gets to the drive-in. The anticipation builds as you start making plans for your evening out. Make sure to stock up on your favorite healthy snacks — and visit one of Santa Clarita’s restaurants for a takeout dinner to bring with you.  

East Walker Ranch is the ideal location for a drive-in movie as the screening area is in a clearing flanked by rolling hills and the natural beauty that makes Santa Clarita one of a kind. Enjoy the fresh air while you watch the movie but be sure to bring a blanket to keep warm when the sun goes down!  

The first screening at City Cinemas will take place this weekend with a showing of “The Greatest Showman” on Friday and Saturday night. Tickets have already sold out for this highly anticipated event, but there will be more opportunities to see a film at City Cinemas this spring. 

“Tombstone” (R) will be shown on April 16-17 as part of the city of Santa Clarita’s month of events with a Western twist. Adults will enjoy the chance to get away for a few hours and watch this classic starring Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer and Sam Elliott. 

Tickets for City Cinemas are $30 per vehicle and include a goodie bag. Due to public health protocols, space is limited and tickets will sell quickly. 

Information on future screenings that are part of City Cinemas will be announced as soon as the details are finalized. Residents can see a list of all upcoming events — including City Cinemas — and purchase tickets by connecting with the city of Santa Clarita Events page on Facebook. 

See you soon at our new East Walker Ranch Open Space Drive-In Movie night. Enjoy! 

Mayor Pro Tem Laurene Weste is a member of the Santa Clarita City Council and can be reached at [email protected]. 

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