The Rubidoux, with its original 1948 screen tower still standing tall, is the last of the classic drive-in theatres remaining in Southern California. Though it retains much of its original character, time has transformed this gem into a thoroughly modern outdoor theatre. The incorporation of FM transmitters and Technalight digital projection ensures the best possible picture and sound available.
Roy C. Hunt, Riverside's prewar motion picture showman, opened the Rubidoux Drive-in Theatre in November 1948. Anticipating the value of drive-ins following postwar expansion, Hunt chose the Rubidoux site for its proximity to the rapidly growing communities of Riverside and Fontana.
The Rubidoux was built as a single screen venue, and had a capacity of about 690 cars. The original art deco styled screen tower was designed for movies shown in the old academy format, but was remodeled when Cinemascope, a wide screen format, was introduced in the mid 1950s. To attract an audience looking for an evening of family fun, the theatre also offered a variety of pre-show entertainment, such as a full service snack bar, miniature railroad, playground, and petting zoo.
Upon the death of Mr. Hunt in 1962, the Rubidoux was acquired by the Los Angeles Drive-in Theatre Company to compliment their other drive-ins in the Riverside area. In 1983, The Rubidoux was remodeled, and two additional screens were added. This helped the theatre to compete successfully with the multitude of multiplex indoor theatres built in the 1970s. Now drive-ins could continue to show first-run, double features to a wider audience.
Renovation and preservation is an ongoing project at the Rubidoux. Since 2000, the snack bar and restrooms have been completely refitted; the lots have been repaved, the screens repainted, and the landscaping upgraded. The box office and snack bar have also gotten a new treatment, and are now reminiscent of the theatre's original postwar, Route 66 heritage.
In a culture where family time has become so rare, and the price of movie tickets are breaking the budget, the time is right once more for the drive-in to satisfy the national thirst for affordable, quality, family entertainment. Fortunately the drive-in theatre is not a forgotten relic, but an exciting living history, and thanks to The Rubidoux and other theatres like it, drive-ins are once again poised to be a familiar American movie-going experience. After all, why just go and see a movie when you can experience one?
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