Drive-in movie theaters in Arizona are close to extinction as only one venue remains in the wake of dozens of closures across the state.The Phoenix metropolitan area (The Valley) used to be home to several drive-ins, including the Thunderbird, Cinema Park, Silver Dollar, Big Sky, Rodeo, Round-up, Acres, Indian, Northern, the Apache Drive-in in Globe, and Pioneer. The last remaining drive-in open now in the entire state of Arizona: The West Wind Glendale 9 Drive-In.
The Glendale 9, near 59th Avenue and Bethany Home Road, welcomed its first moviegoers in 1979, when viewers had to place a speaker in their car to hear the sound. These days, viewers listen through their FM stereo. It features drive-in double-features, every night of the year. The admission is very affordable at $6.75 for adults and only $1 each for children ages 5 to 11. Ages 4 and under free. There’s 9 screens that can show up to 18 different films nightly.
The prices at the concession are a fraction of the cost at an indoor theater and they go above and beyond with their selection.
- Nathan’s Famous All Beef Hot Dogs
- Orville Redenbacher Popcorn
- Nachos Made From Scratch
- Authentic Tacos and Burritos
- A Large Selection Of Candy
- Fresh and Fluffy Cotton Candy
- Creamy Ice Cream
- Paletas Fruit Bars
- Pepsi Beverages
- Agua Fresca
- Siberian Chill™
- Beer, Margaritas and Micheladas
Many people bring their own cooler and lawn chairs. There’s ample parking and plenty of room to be comfortable sitting inside or outside of your vehicle.
My wife and I enjoyed this theater before we were married, now we go several times a year with our kids. In 2012, Glendale 9 underwent several renovations like asphalt paving and removal of the old speaker posts in lieu of a clean, clear radio frequency. It’s well maintained and packed every weekend, showing no signs of slowing down.
The owners of the Valley’s only remaining drive-in theater say they aren’t going anywhere as they’ve already made the transition to digital. “All of the 35mm auto-wind platters (are) all gone,” said Travis Brown, general manager of the Glendale 9. “Everything’s done by digital. Everything’s done by download.”
The investment improves the picture quality on enormous screens that have stood in open fields at the Glendale 9 for the past 24 years. There’s always this feeling that drive-ins are going away – and they have. But there’s this renaissance going on drive-ins right now,” said Tony Maniscalco, a spokesman for West Wind Drive-Ins of San Rafael, Calif., which owns the drive-in. In the past three years, Maniscalco said Glendale’s roadside theater has seen a 43 percent increase in business. Meanwhile, the movie business in general, which includes traditional indoor screens, has stayed consistent, he said.
Valley residents, particularly ones living far from Glendale, haven’t let the absence of drive-ins stop them from enjoying movies in the open air. My family has traveled to neighboring cities to attend movie nights at schools and churches in the past. It’s great to have options, but we still keep our fingers crossed that The West Wind Glendale 9 Drive-In will stay operational for many years to come.