Culture News

Scottsdale 6 Drive-in Theater Closes; is Featured in Upcoming Exhibition by William LeGoullon

William LeGoullon has been going to the drive-in movies for as long as he can remember. The local photographer says he was always drawn to their "iconic Americana" feel and timelessness, which is also why he was so disappointed to hear that the Scottsdale 6 Drive-in (pictured above) had closed and was was completely shut down as of yesterday. 

The Drive-in, operated by a California-based theater company called West Wind, was one of the last three drive-ins in the state after the De Anza Drive-in Theatre was demolished in 2009. 

The two drive-ins left in Arizona include West Wind's theater in Glendale and a family-operated, single-screen drive-in in Globe

LeGuollon began photographing drive-ins in 2009, as part of a series of decaying places and nostalgic spots in Phoenix that were only occupied at nighttime. His completed series of Drive-ins, titled "Intermission" will be re-exhibited on October 21 at Bokeh Gallery in downtown Phoenix.

LeGoullon describes the series as an observation of the relationship between people and the waning outdoor-theater tradition in the U.S. He writes in the exhibition statement: 

As night turns to day, and the Drive-in landscape stands empty, sunlight reveals the altered effects that the absence and presence of people's continued occupation and use of the place create. 
Evidence of the change in awareness of a tradition suspended in time becomes apparent while traces depicting the tension between timelessness and evolutionary change are revealed. "Intermission" explores what happens between shows and symbolizes the physical appearance, the eternal psychological embodiment and the ever-changing character of the iconic American Drive-in.

LeGuollon admits the timing of his show is odd, and tragically coincidental.

He says he'd been to the Scottsdale 6 a number of times since he made his photographs there in 2009, and says theater representatives had told him the theater was on pace to have a record year in terms of attendance and that revenue in the drive-in movie theater industry as a whole is up nationwide. 

​Last week, representatives of the Scottsdale 6 posted photos of a banner that had been hung by members of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, which owns the lot at 8101 E. McKellips Road in Scottsdale. 

The two entities continue to clash in online statements; West Wind claims they were driven out by redevelopment plans for the land; representatives from the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community claim West Wind didn't file paperwork on time. Ultimately, a renewed lease agreement could not be made, and despite donations pledged and efforts made by community members, Scottsdale 6 employees vacated the lot yesterday afternoon. 

There's no word on the official future of the land, and West Wind employees are currently redirecting the slew of disappointed fans and longtime theater-goers (many of whom made tribute videos and are hosting a memorial for the drive-in next weekend) to their other location in Glendale.

LeGoullon writes that more than 5,000 drive-in theaters screened films through the 1950s, and that an estimated 350 were still operating in 2009. Of the 50 drive-ins that once operated in Arizona, only two remain. 

To see more of LeGoullon's series, see his website and check out "Intermission," which will have an opening reception at Bokeh Gallery (inside monOrchid) from 6 to 10 p.m. on October 21.

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