Mission Tiki Drive-In

Best Drive-In Theater, August 2015

When the first drive-in opened in New Jersey in 1933, Americans loaded into autos to watch movies under the stars. Just past the L.A. County line is Montclair’s Mission Tiki Drive-In, where a double feature costs $9 per person.

1956, Front-row Seat

The single-screen Mission Drive-In Theater, the predecessor to the Tiki, opens onto a nine-acre lot that accommodates 1,200 vehicles. The Ten Commandments is that year’s blockbuster.

1958, Rising Star

“Ozoners”—the slang term for drive-ins—are as popular as poodle skirts, with 4,063 screens across the country. Today the alfresco venues are nearly extinct—less than 700 screens remain.

1975, Perfect Pair

Three screens are erected at the site of the Mission’s famous swap meet, turning the outdoor market into a multiplex. Moviegoers can still peruse the stalls of more than 300 vendors.

1996, Going Dark

Two decades later the trend begins to fade. The last active drive-in within L.A. County, Pacific’s Winnetka in Chatsworth, closes on Labor Day. It’s replaced by a 21-screen indoor megatheater.

2006, Lei It On

After 50 years in business, the Mission gets a technical upgrade with a Polynesian twist. The new Mission Tiki features FM transmitters, a splashy projection system, and moai heads.