Opened: August 10, 1971
Location: Doherty’s Road, Altona
Altona was the last drive-in theatre built from the ground up in Melbourne. Hoyts reasoned that the Westgate Bridge would open the west of Melbourne to the inner bayside suburbs of St Kilda, Port Melbourne, Sth Melbourne etc. The hoards of inner bayside residents denied access to a drive-in theatre would pour across the bridge and two exits later be at their own drive-in, Altona. Whilst the reasoning was probably accurate, we never found out. The Westgate bridge collapsed during construction in 1970 and the opening was subsequently delayed until 1979. To add insult to injury when the bridge did open, the tolls kept drivers off it in large numbers until the Government of the day decided to make crossing free. Alas it was too late as the decision to close Altona had been made.
The premiere film was “Walkabout”. It may have been about the hot Australian interior on the screen, but you can bet in the middle of August it was far from hot in the interior of the cars assembled on opening night! Altona was a handsome drive-in with bluestone flecked red brick constructions suiting the surrounding landscape and gardens. A large snack bar building was among the best constructed by Hoyts. The modern projection room was equipped with Philips DP 70 (Norelco AA 11) projectors. The site was prone to flooding and the occasional hot-night odor of sewage – the two combined on at least one occasion to make any “B” grade horror on the screen seem tame by comparison to the theatre environment.
Altona was generally the weakest trader of the Hoyts Melbourne drive-in circuit (after Broadmeadows had closed) and it was the first to really dip into the red. A pity, as it was a fine place to see a movie and was better equipped than many in other suburbs that did double the business. Too few patrons actually drove to a drive-in that was more modern or more functionally designed, some travelled for a particular film, but generally most just went to the closest venue.
Altona stood more than 10 years after closure with various proposals of caravan parks and storage facilities never seeing the light of day. An industrial estate was established on the site and roads cut through the ramps. Interestingly, the screen, projection box and snack bar were left standing among the roads and warehouses, it wasn’t until the Dromana drive-in bought the screen that the buildings were razed.