When “Iron Man 2” opens tonight, it will screen in the usual downtown and Goleta locations. However, there’s a third option. For the first time in 19 years, the Santa Barbara Drive-In opens back up to premiere the first of this summer’s blockbusters on what was and is once again the city’s largest screen.
As a result of a Facebook campaign and some wise investors, the 88-foot wide, three story-tall screen will once again be alive for double features, and a new generation can experience the magic of watching a film in a style that once was thought to be a dying venue nationwide.
Last month, a screening of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” a benefit for Direct Relief International, brought out the crowds, who at the time thought this would be a special one-time event. The screen was re-painted. The projector, which had not been moved since it originally closed, still worked.
Nancy Crane and San Marcos senior Niqui O’Neil responded to the screening and started a Facebook page urging for a full reopening. Soon they had 6,500 fans, and the folks at West Wind, who have made a side business of reopening drive-ins, became aware of the financial viability.
“The argument used to be that the property was worth more as real estate,” says Tony Maniscalco, VP of marketing. “But that’s not true in all cases.” What once affected the profitability of drive-ins — daylight savings time — is not the case anymore either. “We’re a later civilization now.”
So what’s new? The projector has been refitted with a brighter bulb and better glass. The sound no longer comes from speakers next to the parking space, but broadcast over a FM radio frequency.
And for the first time in a very long time, a theater opens that isn’t owned by Metropolitan Theaters Corporation. In the past, Maniscalco says, this might have been difficult, but the business of distribution has changed enough to make this friendly competition.
And the best thing for most people? The low prices and the return of the double feature, which pair first-run releases with one from a month or two previous. Prices are $6.75 for adults, $1 for kids 5 to 11 years old and kids 4 and under are free. Tuesdays are Family Fun night, where adult tickets are $4.75. Now that’s a blast from the past.
Asked for a reason for the prices, Maniscalco explains it as a result of low overhead. “We don’t have air conditioning, we don’t have heating. That’s all supplied by the moviegoers.”
(Movies will start when the sun goes down so check westwinddi.com for movie listings and start times or call the theater at 964-9050. The theater is located at 907 S. Kellogg Ave. in Goleta.
‘IRON MAN 2’
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Mickey Rourke, Don Cheadle, Gwyneth Paltrow, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Samuel L. Jackson
Length: 125 minutes
Rating: PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, and some language
Playing at: Arlington, Plaza, Camino Real, S.B. Drive-In