Opened: 8th November 1956
Location: Toorak Road near Toronga Road, East Hawthorn
Capacity: 634 Cars
Operator: Independent, later Village/Hoyts
What a location for a drive-in! Imagine 20 acres given over to a venture that only operated during the evenings in Double Bay or Beverly Hills, well that is what Toorak drive-in was. Located on top of a hill on part of the former brickworks site, nobody who drove up Toorak Road could miss the screen towering over inner Eastern Melbourne. It was an icon for almost 30 years.
Originally opened as an independent drive-in, the owner died in the mid-1960's. The drive-in was bought by Hoyts and Village. This was the first of several drive-ins and hardtops that were jointly operated by the two companies over the years. It was advertised as a Village drive-in in their newspaper directories from 1966, yet was staffed and operated by Hoyts! Hoyts staff were not allowed to display the Hoyts logo on uniforms etc.
Although run by Hoyts, Toorak ran Village product so it would not directly compete with the Hoyts Skyline drive-in just down the road. When most drive-ins ran just one big session each evening, Toorak still advertised two sessions nightly (this was possible prior to daylight saving). This suggests that business at Toorak was brisk if another few hundred cars were willing to see a show at 10.00pm - late for the 1950's and 1960's.
The pressure to realise the enormous value of the land became too great the moment the business started to slide. The land was snapped up by one of Australias largest companies, Coles-Myer. Today the headquarters of this company, known as Battlestar Gallactica due to its dark and ominous design, occupies the entire site. The former drive-in entrance driveway has been used as parking for years and amazingly has not been asphalted over.
When the drive-in closed, an elderly resident who lived across the road was asked for her comment "if only it had run matinee's, it might still be in business"!
Toorak was a long way from the outskirts of Melbourne, most of the houses surrounding the site had been in existance almost 40 years before the drive-in was even built! What 3 ingredients do successful theaters and quality real estate have in common? Location, location, location.
Remember those drive-in passes that you received in showbags that often had "Valid at all Village drive-ins except Toorak" disclaimer? Well now you know why.