Jul 22, 2019

A Dying Trend

The Madera Drive-In Theater is one of the last drive-in
theaters in the state.
David Adam Castro / The Collegian

One of the last drive-in movie theaters in the state located in Fresno’s own backyard

When was the last time you went to a drive-in?  You might be shaking your head, wondering if they still exist.  Well, one is located just 30 minutes northwest of Fresno State, in the city of Madera.

The Madera Drive-In Theater has been in operation for over 40 years and will begin its spring season on Friday, April 27.  It will be open every night until September. The movies slated for opening weekend have yet to be announced, but the following week on May 4 will feature the premier of Marvel’s “The Avengers.” The film is expected to be a major moneymaker.

“We always bring every brand new movie we can,” said Alex Barajas, manager of the drive-in.  “It is a blockbuster year and it will be packed opening weekend.”

The outdoor theater consists of two screens on opposite ends with each playing two different films on a given night.  Barajas said the drive-in can hold about 230 vehicles on Side A and about 120 on Side B.  Parking does fill up and you should plan accordingly to arrive early for a good spot.

Start times for the first film typically begin at dusk.  “I’ll open the gates around 6 to 6:30 on the weekends so everyone can settle in,” said Barajas.

Even when the drive-in maximizes its capacity for cars, guests can still park their vehicles on the outside parking lot and walk in after they pay.

For two films, each adult ticket is only $7.  This is significantly cheaper than the $10 one might spend for a film at a typical walk-in theater.  Senior citizens and children under 12 can get in for only $2.

Besides the price, the Drive-In has other advantages over the indoor theater.

“You can’t talk in theaters,” said Barajas.  “Here, you could walk around, answer your phone, and just have an all-around good time.”

Guests are also invited to bring their own food and beverages.  For those who don’t, the snack bar is open.  They offer popcorn, candy, nachos, soft drinks and pizza.

On Monday nights, their food special is $1 hot dogs, served hot off the grill.

Barajas said the indoor snack bar, centered in the middle, is the last that is located underground at a drive-in.

“We are very old fashioned,” he said.  Unlike many theaters that now show their films digitally, this drive-in still displays its features in projection.

Barajas said the drive-in has traditionally been a family-friendly atmosphere and that is the way he intends to keep it.

He said that people from all over have come because it is known as one of the last remaining drive-ins in California.

“We have people that come down from San Francisco that have a cabin in Oakhurst, and when they come back up, they stop here just to watch a movie.”

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