Mackay Westline

Opened: 20th November, 1978
Location: Horse & Jockey Road, Mackay
Capacity: 552 Cars
Screens: One
Operator: Birch, Carroll & Coyle
Closed: March 1996

The Westline drive-in theatre was really a mistake from the beginning. Its sister drive-in, The Grove, was running very well to strong business. The sensible scenario would be to add an extra screen to The Grove, it had bush-land behind it. Birch, Carroll and Coyle decided that another drive-in would be constructed on the other side of town and double the business. On Thursday November 20 1978, the brand new Westline Drive-in Theatre opened at a cost of over one million dollars. The premiere shows were “Hooper”, the Burt Reynolds film with some of the most expensive stunts seen at that time, supported by Robby Benson in “One on One”. Cartoons, skydivers and rides were all part of the opening night entertainment for local Mackay and BCC dignitaries.

Neat ramps and a big screen awaited you at the Mackay Westline Drive-in Theatre.

The opening of the Westline cut business drastically at the Grove across town. This also prevented the Westline from ever reaching its full potential. A BCC director said in a TV interview “The future is in drive-ins”, he was right if he meant the future four years only, as by the early 1980’s drive-in business began to slide all around the country! Manager Bill Gardner always ensured the patrons who visited the modern looking site were always priority one and plenty of good food always available. In the second week “Grease” screened and caused a line half a kilometer long. Not even the driveway that held 220 cars could absorb this crowd to a drive-in favorite.

Placement of ticket boxes next to the snack bar was unique to BCC. A clever design until they realised that car headlamps shone straight to the screen from every car buying a ticket!

John Wilson was the projectionist at the Westline and presided over a very well maintained projection room. It is interesting to note that prior to opening all the speaker leads had to be cut shorter and re-attached, as the manufacturer had supplied them with leads that were too long! Val Morgan talkie slides ran at the Westline and the commentary for such local businesses as Bakers Creek Car Wreckers was provided by Graham Kennedy and Maggie Tabera. Some slide presentations ran for 29 minutes and commenced before the gates even opened! Graham sometimes had to have his swearing censored when Disney films were run! The playground was to the right of the snack bar/projection building and later included extra pieces from the Grove after it closed in 1987.

Century projectors with Strong xenon lamphouses. The slide machine uses a Kalee carbon-arc lamphouse. Space was made for a platter, the Westline ran its life running on 6,000ft spools.

In later years, what once shone like a beacon for all to see, became a darkened theatre as costs were reined in in an attempt to conserve power. The manager was based at the cinema and only spent a minimum of time at the drive-in. The Westline and its massive “biggest in QLD” screen closed in March 1996. All equipment and the screen were removed prior to auction and it was bought by the Racecourse Sugar Mill for $500,000, half of what it cost to open! If only BCC had built a twin, Mackay may still have a drive-in today.

Special thanks to John Wilson Jnr for information and photos (circa 1985) used here.