By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
The Pooles and the Canfields met up under the stars one night last month, but not like they used to.
For years, a typical Friday evening found Scott and Eva Poole and Jesse and Jill Canfield at the drive-in movies. The 40-something Pooles went almost every weekend for decades, often with their three (now grown) children in tow. The Canfields, both 32, had most of their "cheap date nights" here before getting married. The two couples actually met at the Scottsdale 6, and they made a weekly ritual of meeting up early before watching the latest blockbuster movie on the big screens.
"Right now, we should be setting up our lawn chairs, getting a pizza from Gus' Pizza, smoking a cigar," Jesse Canfield says.
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Instead, they're gathered in the parking lot of an auto shop strip mall on a Friday evening in late September, across the street from the former Scottsdale 6, which screened its last movies August 28. There's a banner on the chain-link gate that reads "Closed. Thank you for your patronage." Six blank drive-in screens loom like celluloid tombstones in the sunset.
Aside from the nearby Big Surf water park and the Tempe Marketplace on the other side of the freeway, there isn't much life around the old Scottsdale 6 — just a big cemetery called Green Acres, surrounded by miles of undeveloped land, much of it belonging to the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.
It's hard for anyone here tonight to imagine anything going up in place of Scottsdale 6 anytime soon.
The overall feeling tonight at this "Scottsdale 6 Memorial Rally" is one of mourning and nostalgia. There's also a sense of disappointment, because there are only six people here: the Pooles, the Canfields, and two reporters. Aside from the latter, these people form the core of the new Arizona Drive-In Movie Society; they founded a Facebook group called "Save the Scottsdale 6," which quickly drew members — 476 in less than two weeks.
"I was hoping more people would be here," Jesse Canfield says. "I really want people to understand that it takes more than joining a Facebook group. Come out to some events; go see a drive-in movie."
Since opening in 1977, Scottsdale 6 was a hub of dying American culture, one of the last remnants of our country's drive-in movie theater craze. Every evening, people came here to set up lawn chairs, sprawl out on mattresses in truck beds, and even set up barbecues among the dust clouds at dusk. On Tuesday nights, they'd pay $4.50 per person for two movies, unpack a bucket of chicken or a pizza, some blankets and pillows, and their kids, who would flock to the arcade inside the concession stand while the adults met up with fellow drive-in regulars for a game of cards or a round of drinks.
When Scottsdale 6 closed because it couldn't reach a new lease agreement with the landowners, Valley drive-in enthusiasts started banding together — first, to try to save Scottsdale 6, and now, as that seems impossible, to try to save what's left of the Valley's once-thriving drive-in culture. At one time, there were more than 50 drive-ins across Arizona. With the closing of Scottsdale 6, there are now, only two left in the entire state: Glendale 9, off 55th Avenue and Bethany Home Road, and Globe's seasonal, single-screen Apache Drive-In.
Drive-in theaters have been dying rapidly across the nation for the past two decades. At their peak in the early 1950s, there were around 4,000 drive-in theaters in the United States. A number of factors — including the changing image of drive-ins, difficulties procuring first-run films, licensing fees, and, most notably, the increasing value of land — has caused that number to dwindle to just an estimated 371 nationwide today.
For fans of drive-ins, the decline is a tragedy, a vanishing piece of Americana that must be salvaged. Many Scottsdale 6 regulars have started going to Glendale 9 and say they'll also go to the Apache in Globe when it reopens next spring. "I was devastated when I heard Scottsdale 6 closed," Eva Poole says. "My kids have gone to the drive-in, and one day, I'd like to take my grandkids. I think a lot of people have never experienced it . . . It's Americana. It's history."
It's also the topic of an art exhibit, opening October 21 at Bokeh Gallery in Phoenix.
Drive-ins long had been a disappearing culture when local photographer William LeGoullon started photographing them in 2009, for an exhibition titled "Intermissions," originally shown at eye lounge. The exhibition started as a project in which LeGoullon photographed during the day places that usually were active only at night.
"I started to observe the fact that this is a place that's a classic American landscape — old popcorn stands, old neon lights," LeGoullon says. "What I found interesting was seeing these symbols, and how some have survived and how some have been affected over time, either by weathering or technology. It's a mixture of a classic place that still holds a lot of nostalgia, but in a modern time."
Now, LeGoullon's photos of the Scottsdale 6 may be the only part of it that lives on, aside from memories.
The first drive-in theater opened in Pennsauken, New Jersey, on June 6, 1933. It was the brainchild of Richard M. Hollingshead Jr., whose family owned the R.M. Hollingshead Corporation chemical plant in Camden. This first drive-in had one 40-foot-by-50-foot screen and room for 400 cars. It was billed as a place to bring the whole family, regardless of how noisy the kids were.
It crushes me to see one of the last icons I love since I first came to the valley some 25yrs ago. I am a esat sider having gone to ASU, I have remained close to the school. The drive-in is where I have taken all my girlfriends for cheap dates and lots of fun. Then I would smooth on over to the salt sellar for reverse happy hour. Now I take(or use to) my child there and its always fun. Something about being outdoors. It didn't matter if the movie was good that night as they had the arcade in the snack shop. Yeah the movie pixels are never good but if your car has a nice stereo system you get the sense of being in the movie. My favorite was the Titanic as my car was sinking for 2 hours.
Wow that is such a bummer, anyone remember back in the day when drive ins were all the rage??
I heard that the owners caught an illegal mexican trying to sneak in over 12 millions others... That's not right
To be on topic, I'm pretty certain I saw E.T at Glendale 9 with my kids and then girlfriend the weekend it opened.
All Illegal aliens should be allowed by Obwama to apply for work permits but only while they are outside the United States in their home countries. This type of program (guest workers) has worked very well for many years in economically successful places such as Switzerland, Singapore to name a few. Once their work visa expires they must immediately leave the country. If the females become prgnant, they are immediately returned to their home country. commit any violation of ANY law (even "J" walking) and they are deported. If they attempt to re-enter the US illegaly, they are automatically placed on a list of permanently banned from entry into the US. Are you with us?Just enforce the Immigration Laws and treat all people who want to enter the US fairly. Don't show preference to those that entered illegally. Justice for all?
We wished we had heard about the closing so we could have went to see a movie before it closed. It would have been fun to attend a "closing up" party. It will be interesting to see what gets put in it's place.
I imagine they have closed Scottsdale 6 due to the economic impact that illegal immigration has had on our state. That, combined with the Pierce recall, just make operating a drive in theater too difficult.
Ask a Mexican when he / she plans to return to Mexico to legally apply for a work visa to legally enter the US?
What in the hell does closing the Scottsdale 6 drive-in have to do with immigration? I notice that every time an article is written by New Times, no matter the subject, you post some idiotic comment concerning Mexicans and immigration. Get a job, find some friends, donate you time with a charity to help your neighbors, just get a life.
Because new times is a racist rag that loves illegal aliens. Illega laliens are mentioned because they are a scourge to society and must be removed like the vermin they are.
Did a mean old brown skinned man take your job mowing lawns? It has to be difficult walking around with that big chip on your shoulder. The burden of hate you are carrying around will do nothing but create more of the same. Why do you read and comment in this "racist rag" as you call it. This article has nothing to do with immigration.