Fans remain in awe of John Travolta’s impressive vocal talents in “Grease,” as the lovesick Danny Zuko who laments the loss of his beloved Sandy from the playground swings of the local drive-in theater.
Over the years, drive-in theaters have developed from a cultural movie phenomenon to a favorite weekend pastime, where the comforts of car-seat cuddling and knapsack snacks are a mere luxury of the Friday night excitement.
A Hollywood marvel of the 1950s, drive-in theaters were considered ideal for late-night family outings and provided a secluded romantic setting for a first date staring through the fogged-up sunroof into the starry night.
The Skyview Drive-In Theater and Flea Market, a local Santa Cruz attraction and historical landmark, is closing its curtains after 58 years of classic films and weekend bargain shopping that attracted local families and university students since 1949.
With the storm of the Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) still fresh in people’s minds, the Santa Cruz community now mourns the loss of Skyview, as rolls of film are packed up to make room for the expansion of the neighboring Sutter Health Clinic.
While the development of a new medical facility may help develop cures and fuel health-related research, with the closing of the drive-in, newly discovered scientific findings seem to be far from the people’s minds.
Sadness and disappointment filled the crisp winter air on Dec. 2, Skyview’s final day of operation.
For years Skyview was acknowledged as a landmark that helped define the quirky and unique image of Santa Cruz, blending into the bellowing screams of the roller coasters of the long-lived Beach Boardwalk.
Drive-in theaters have come a long way within the movie industry and Santa Cruz County. The concept of a drive-in theater first made its appearance among a group of moviegoers in the 1930s, when sound was originally projected from speakers from one large screen. This was later replaced by individual speakers that were attached to a wire and hung from the window of each car, which has led to the current method of broadcasting the movie audio over an AM/FM radio station.
With the previewing of films at drive-in theaters came the excitements and benefits such as the reasonable prices for a double film feature, and the comfort and silence of sitting in one’s own car except for the friendly toot of a nearby car horn.
On the flip side, the theaters also had to deal with unexpected weather conditions, and the spike in the price of maintaining the plot of land on which the theaters settled. This is definitely a far stretch from today’s definition of going to the movies on a rainy day.
Despite the growing changes and renovations of Santa Cruz, the flea market vendors of the previous Skyview Drive-In continue on their journey to find another location that will yield new memories and experiences. However, nothing will beat the memories that were created and shared conversing with locals at Skyview, not only a landmark but a part of history and a part of Santa Cruz.
While the loss of Skyview drive-in makes its mark in the Santa Cruz history books, the handsome T-bird member, Danny, will continue to steal the thunder of the movie spotlight.