On the way back from a business trip to Mojave, California, I was able to squeeze in a short stay in Las Vegas. Once again, I made time on my schedule for a visit to the Vegas Drive-In Theater.
This trip, I parked behind the concession stand. The screen in this lot is the one nearest to the projection booth. The "throw" is very short and the picture was absolutely beautiful. The concession stand was extremely busy and I was forced to wait for nearly 15 minutes to get a pizza. Don't get me wrong! I'm not complaining! Any drive-in that is selling pizzas by the dozens is a drive-in that should be around for years to come!
As you can imagine, you can't sell a lot of pizzas without selling a lot of tickets. I spoke to several other patrons and the assistant manager. All of them told the same story. Weekday business can be slow but weekends, espcially summer weekends, are very busy. The previous weekend, patrons began to arrive at the theater three hours before the box office opened in anticipation of heavy demand for "Shrek II". Not only did "Shrek II" sell out, but the movies showing adjacent to it also sold out. You'll understand why that would happen if you look at the satellite photo below.
I have only one minor complaint about my viewing experience. The back of the theater is bordered by an airport. The landing lights were on for nearly the entire evening. Around the base of the screen is a chain link fence. Wooden slats have been placed through the links in the fence to block the lights from the airport without blocking the desert winds. On the whole, this setup works very well except for those spots in which the slats are missing or broken. It's a minor distraction which can be decreased by not parking in the first row of the lot.
It was such a beautiful night that I stayed for the double feature of "Van Helsing" and "Troy".
If you enjoy drive-in theaters, you'll enjoy an evening at the Vegas Drive-In Theater!
The next day, I drove over to the main branch of the Las Vegas library. Arriving there, I was happy to learn that the local newspapers are available on microfilm. I was not happy to learn that the microfilm is kept in room that is off-limits to the general public. The library policy is that only one roll of microfilm can be checked out per patron. To maximize the odds of finding drive-in related advertisements and articles, the first roll of microfilm that I checked out was from May 1950. After reviewing that roll, I returned it and checked out the roll from May 1955. I reviewed it, returned it and then jumped forward again into the future by five years. I continued this process until my eyes were so tired that I could barely see.
I found a variety of advertisements that reveal much about the lost history of drive-in theaters in Las Vegas. You can read more about it here.
I've been to this theater twice. The first time was in August 2000 on a weekday. Attendance was light and it was hotter than, well, you know.
My second visit was in November 2001. The night was very cool and I was glad to have been wearing a long sleeved shirt and an undershirt. The property was packed. How packed? Once I got in, I couldn't leave until the cars behind me pulled out. I have never seen cars park so close together in a drive-in!
If you go to Las Vegas, visit this theater! You will have a good time! It is located behind Texas Station and close to the Fiesta in North Las Vegas.
Below is a satellite photo of the property as it looked in 1994. All six screens were still up at that time. Construction is just beginning on the low buildings to the right of the picture. At the bottom of the picture, construction has not yet even begun on the Texas Station. I've numbered the screens in the diagram using my numbering method - right to left. Although I've been there twice, I can't recall how the screens are actually numbered.
These pictures were taken in August 2000. If you've ever taken pictures in the desert, you know how challenging it can be to get good pictures in such a environment.
There are three ticket booths at the Las Vegas Drive-In Theater. Here are two of them. Note the resemblance to a certain fast food restaurant chain! On the far right, you can see Screen 4. On the far left, you can see the concession stand/projection booth.
This is the third ticket booth. I found it unusual that all three ticket booths had different signs. The first ticket booth advertised the movies on exhibition. The second ticket booth welcomed the patrons and advertised the price of regular admission. This ticket booth advertised a weekly special. On the left, you can see Screen 6. Towards the middle left, you get a better view of the concession stand/projection booth. Note how small the distance is between the screen and the projection booth. I have never seen a brighter picture than the one on Screen 6.
Here is a close-up of the sign over the middle ticket booth. Like so many drive-ins, this one seems to have fallen on hard times. This could be easily and, I believe, inexpensively repaired.
This is a close-up of the booth. Unlike the Mission in San Antonio, the management feels comfortable leaving items inside the ticket booth while the theater is closed.
The exit lanes are between ticket booths 2 and 3. These spikes looked operational.
In the distance is Screen 5, note the white "6" on the ground. The screen I've described as Screen 1, the screen farthest on the right, is referred to as Screen 6 at the theater. To get to the corresponding lot, you must make a sharp right turn at the "6", drive forward slightly, then turn left into the lot.
Note the odd layout of this theater. A maze of white rail fences create lanes leading to each screen. If you don't change into the proper lane immediately past the ticket booths, you won't be able to reach your destination! Given that Screen 5 is directly in line with the ticket booths, I would expect it to have glare problems from incoming cars.
Why isn't this theater stilled called the Vegas 6? One of the screens blew down in a storm a couple of years ago. The support structure is still in place. Perhaps it will be rebuilt in the future? Also, note how close Screens 2 & 4 are to the former Screen 3. During my first visit to this theater in 2000, this lot went unused. On my second trip, I visited the theater on a holiday weekend. That night, the former Screen 3 lot was being used as an overflow lot by patrons watching movies on Screens 2 & 4.
Here is another key point. Screens 2 to 4 are all in the same "plane" as the front of the concession stand. Given how close together that Screens 2, 3 and 4 are, you can actually see all three at the same time from inside the concession stand!
Look closely at the mound that forms the base for Screen 3. It appears to built up -- almost like a mound of white rock or sand. The construction on this screen is also different from Screen 2 and Screen 4. I'd bet this screen was also added in later to up the screen count.
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Views Since 04 July 2007