West Wind Drive-In: A Taste of the ’30s

A one-way road opens to face a fluorescent marquis, leading to three ticket booths and lines of cars waiting to be admitted. Behind the booths lie six out- door movie screens, playing today’s latest hits. Welcome to the West Wind Drive-In of San Jose, which has brought a vintage flare to the movie business since 1971.

In the 1930s and 1940s, drive-ins let consumers combine their love for automobiles with that of the up-and-coming film business. Drive-in theaters, pioneered by Richard Hollingshead in Camden, New Jersey, presented their films to viewers through outdoor projections and in-car radios. Hollingshead’s innovation also extended to a new viewing platform. This ramp system, composed of tilted parking spaces in the viewing lot, set cars at different heights to allow for visibility regardless of location— a technique still implemented at drive-ins today. West Wind recreates Hollingshead’s vision and offers a fun alternative in which viewers can kick back and pig out (made easy by the ability to bring your own snacks) in the comfort of their own cars.

Along with the outdoor set- ting, viewers enjoy luxuries not present at the conventional theater. With an admission rate of only $7.50 per person, the one-size-fits-all bucket of popcorn offered by the ticketmaster only adds to the bargain.

Once they are directed to the appropriate viewing lot, viewers are surrounded by the social atmosphere allowed by the ample space and all-accommodating atmosphere at West Wind. Across the lot, you’ll find families in lawn chairs, tailgate-style barbecues and teenagers enjoying the view from the back of their trunk.

Unlike a conventional theater, West Wind encourages interaction and conversation between those who choose to share the experience. In the privacy of their own cars, movie-goers are allowed to personalize their viewing. At West Wind, it’s not the movie that makes the night, but who you watch it with.

Though the West Wind Drive-In has revived the classical aspects of the 20th century movie industry, it feels anything but outdated. Viewers get a taste of the vintage feel while keeping up with the times. With this blend of the old and the new, West Wind has something to offer for all ages.