Hi-way 39 Westminster, California

Opened: 1950's
Location: Hi-way 39, Westminster, Orange County, California
Capacity: 1,000+
Screens: Four
Operator: Pacific drive-in theatres
Closed: 1997

Brief history:
The Hi-way 39 was a classic, screen mural, neon roadsign, manicured lawns and palm trees all around. It was also the last drive-in operating in Orange county. Prior to closure, it along with Pacific's Winnetka 6, was one of the busiest drive-ins in California. Like all of these monster drive-ins in urban areas, the land value simply becomes too great to justify the operation continuing.


These neon marquee signs were everywhere across the US at one time with over 100 alone in southern california, now very few remain. This was an awesome sign at night.


Pacific employed a company in the 1940's and 1950's to paint screen murals on the back of their screens. The mural always reflected the chartacter or activioties of the suburb or area that the drive-in was located in. Hi-way 39 drive-in was not far from Huntington beach and Sunset beach, hence the theme. It was lit with neon lettering at night.


This is the other side of screen one, the main and original screen. Many original screen towers in the US were painted with a mask to designate the drive-in 2:1 ratio (halfway between 1.85:1 widescreen and 2.34:1 cinemascope). The screen was generally larger when 1.34:1 standard ratio was used prior to the various widescreen processes in 1953.


Screens 2, 3 and 4 can be seen here, these were added later. The picket fences seen here are typical of what Pacific used in all of their drive-ins. Cine-fi leads hang from posts with not a speaker to be seen. Interestingly Pacific were very slow to convert to FM stereo. Look closely in the Dodge and you'll see Julie asleep a full 3 hours before showtime!


Four screens means four ticket boxes, four driveways and four overhead signs!


Make sure you are in the correct lane or you'll end up seeing a movie you didn't plan on! I always wondered how they changed these overhead signs every week.

If you like the drive-ins of Los Angeles, visit Sal Garcia's Southern California Drive-ins site.

 

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