During the 1950’s cars had become more affordable and the baby-boomer generation born after World War 2 were starting to purchase their first vehicles. This provided an opportunity for a few enterprising business people to establish drive-in theatres.
The first so-called American styled drive-in theatre in Australia opened in 1954 at suburban Burwood in Victoria and the opening night saw extensive traffic jams on the approaching roads. Later that year Adelaide’s first drive-in theatre open followed by Perth’s in 1955. Sydney waited another year until the Skyline Drive-In theatres opened simultaneously in 1956 at Frenches Forest and Dundas. Although I have read that a very early drive-in theatre existed in Western Australia in 1938 which could suggest that Drive-in theatres have a much longer history in this country.
As a teenager in the 1960s the closest drivein to where I lived at Cabramatta was the El Rancho Drive-in at Fairfield West whilst another close by was the Skyline at Bass Hill. I attended both at various times. The closest Drive-ins to the Hills from memory would have been at Blacktown where one still exists, another at Parklea on the site of Parklea Markets and also at Dundas.
Many a tale has been told by patrons of the Drive-ins of smuggling friends into the drive-in hiding in the boot of the car. Others have spoken of when driving out of forgetting to detach the speakers from their vehicles with the subsequent damage caused as the speakers were torn from the stand and damage to the car doors. Then there are those who claimed to have installed a mattress in the back of the panel van or station wagon for the benefit of their girlfriends. I don’t think they would have seen much of the movies on the large screen. The eldest of our daughters, whilst still a toddler would stick her head out of the side window of the car and say “look mum”, excited that she could see the picture on the screen, not realising she could see the same thing through the windscreen. Most drive-in theatres also had a playground to keep the younger children amused whilst the parents watched the movie The kids would usually go to the drive-in in their PJ’s ready for bed when they got home.
I heard of one family who did not own a car but lived close to a Drive-In theatre so on a warm summer night they would walk to the drive-in slip under a fence with pillows and sit and watch the movies grabbing a nearby portable speaker to listen to the sound.
Drive-in theatres often featured horror movies on Friday 13th or at Halloween. Back in the 50’s & 60’s there was no daylight saving in Sydney so the nights or evenings got darker earlier. The Drive-Ins were more popular in the warmer months when the windows did not fog up and it was not raining as the windscreen wipers would have spoilt the view of the movie screen. Another advantage with the Drive In is that you could talk to each other without annoying other movie patrons nearby.
The on-site snack bars did a roaring trade during the intervals where you could purchase ice-creams, drinks and lollies or even hot food such as pies, hot dogs or sausage rolls.
There were many Drive Ins around Sydney. On a wider scale, three hundred and thirty are believed to have existed in Australia during their peak.
After the closure of many drive-in theatres, developers turned the sites into housing estates or shopping centre locations.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]