List of drive-in theatres in Australia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Drive-in theatres in Australia)
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Mainline Drive-in Theatre Gepps Cross South Australia 16 April 2006

Drive-in theatres (also known as drive-in cinemas or drive-ins) were once very popular in Australia. Although considered an American invention there is evidence of outdoor cinemas in Western Australia where some patrons attended in their cars as far back as 1938, and it is possible that these facilities may even predate the first American-style drive-in theatre.[1]


Bass Hill Drive-In Cinema

The first American-style drive-in theatre to open in Australia was the Skyline in the Melbourne suburb of Burwood on 18 February 1954.[2][3] It was the first of 330 drive-in theatres that would open across Australia.[3]

Many have since closed with the large amounts of land taken up by drive-ins being sold off to build houses or shopping centres, although in recent years a number of drive-in theatres have reopened or expanded the number of screens available.

In the 1990s, the Coburg Drive-in Theatre in Melbourne was expanded to three screens,[4] as was the Dromana Drive-in Theatre.[5] In more recent times the former Dandenong Panoramic Drive-in, in Victoria, has been reopened as the Lunar Drive-in Theatre[6] and now has four screens making it Australia's largest drive-in theatre with the most screen choice.

In 2002 the Rodeo Drive-in at Mareeba, near Cairns, re-opened, with the Tivoli Drive-in near Ipswich re-opening in 2008.

Dromana Drive In is the longest continually running in Australia. It was opened in 1961 and has never closed. [7]

The longest running Drive In Theatres in Western Australia that is still open today is located in Dongara. This opened in 1967 and still operates every summer, the projector has been upgraded to digital to show the latest movies.

Along with a few metropolitan operations, there are a number of drive-in theatres serving remote communities such as Jericho in Queensland.

By state[edit]

The remaining drive-ins provide a glimpse of what was a very popular pastime in the 1950s and 1960s. The following is a listing of Australia's remaining open drive-in theatres. It includes portable operations in which patrons can either drive or sit down to see a movie outdoors.


Lunar Drive-in Theatre Dandenong Victoria Australia

Following a visit to the United States in the early 1950s, Hoyts' southern division manager, George Griffith Jnr, believed that drive-in theatres would be successful in Australia.[2][8][9] Hoyts and Fox however did not share Griffith's enthusiasm for the establishment of a drive-in theatre, so Griffith subsequently formed a syndicate, Auto Theatres Pty Ltd,[2] which decided on a site in the Melbourne suburb of Burwood for Australia's first drive-in theatre. Construction proceeded through the latter half of 1953 from plans drawn up by AC Leith Bartlett & Partners in conjunction with RCA Australia.[8][9] The Skyline Burwood officially opened on 18 February 1954[3] and proved extremely popular, with traffic jams in both directions along the Burwood Highway.[9] Hoyts subsequently bought out Griffith and his partners.[2]

Following the success of the first drive-in theatre, the Skyline (Burwood), Hoyts quickly opened Skyline drive-in theatres at Preston in 1954,[10] and Oakleigh in March 1955.[11] The next Hoyts drive-in was constructed in Broadmeadows (1958),[12] but then there was a break of almost 10 years until Hoyts acquired drive-ins at Coburg and Oakleigh and constructed new drive-ins in Bulleen (1965), Wantirna (1968) and Altona. In 1972 the Broadmeadows Skyline was the first of the Melbourne suburban drive-ins to close,[12] whilst the Oakleigh site was the last drive-in operated by Hoyts in the world, when it closed in 1990.[11]

Sandringham drive-in theatre (now closed) was located between Tulip and Talinga Roads in Sandringham Victoria. With the entrance being on Tulip St.

Today Melburnians have 10 screens in their immediate vicinity to choose from (counting Dromana as being basically suburban Melbourne). Rural Victorians however have no drive-in theatres currently in operation.

  • Lunar Drive-in Theatre (four screens), Dandenong
The Lunar Dandenong is now Australia's largest and oldest (still in operation) drive-in theatre.[6] It was first opened 4 May 1956 and was constructed by J and K Houlahan from plans drawn up by Baily and Tilley.[6] The original capacity was to be for 400 cars however this was redesigned to accommodate 600 cars, with the final capacity being 634 cars. The drive-in closed on 18 April 1984 and was subsequently purchased by Trash and Treasure Australia Pty Ltd, who operated a Sunday market on the site in the 1970s.[6] On 19 September 2002 it reopened as a two-screen drive-in, with a third screen added in September 2003 with a 950-car capacity.[6]
Coburg opened in November 1965, under the ownership of Sillman and Sharp.[4] It was acquired by Hoyts in 1967 until it closed in 1984.[4] Hoyts were unable to sell the site despite numerous attempts and in 1987 Village joined with Hoyts and re-opened Coburg as a twin screen in 1987.[4] A third screen was added in 1995. Coburg was Australia's largest drive-in theatre with an 850 car capacity,[4] until the expansion at Dandenong in 2003.
  • Dromana 3 Drive-in (3 Screens), Dromana
The Dromana was opened in 1961 with a capacity of 485 cars.[5] It has since been expanded to a three screen operation and has a Sunday market operating from the site. It is only one of three that have never closed (since the 1960s), operating continuously since its inception (1961) to the present.[13]

New South Wales[edit]

The Skyline Drive-ins at Frenchs Forest and Dundas were Sydney's first. They opened simultaneously on Wednesday 24 October 1956, with Frenchs Forest screening 3 Ring Circus and Dundas screening The Racers.

The Skyline in Bass Hill opened in November 1956, with a 724 car capacity and until its closure in September 2007 was Australia's oldest continually operating drive-in theatre.[14][15] This was followed by a Skyline in Newcastle in December 1956 at a cost of $200,000, with a capacity for 722 cars and a holding area for a further 420.[16] The Newcastle Skyline closed in June 1985.[16] The North Ryde Skyline, on Lane Cove Road, accommodated 620 cars and operated for 30 years from 1956.[17][18] Caringbah drive-in is now a shopping mall. A few small community drive-ins remain in rural NSW.

Until recently the Greater Union Blacktown Drive In was one of Sydney's last remaining drive-ins,[19] however a new seasonal facility with a blow up screen has recently started at Randwick Racecourse. From late May 2020, the rooftop carpark at the Entertainment Quarter in Moore Park will also host a drive-in theatre.[20]

  • Greater Union Blacktown Drive-In (2 Screens), Blacktown
Blacktown Skyline was opened in the 1960s. It was the first of the Consolidated circuit to add a second screen in 1984 and has a capacity of 700 cars.[19] It is currently operated by Greater Union.

Tamworth Drive-in theatre opened in July 1965 and closed circa 1980. Featured a children's playground and mini-golf with full food amenities.

  • Heddon Greta Skyline (1 Screen), Heddon Greta The Drive in was opened in the 1960s but between 1984 - 1996 the theatre was closed, however it has been reopened. The theatre has the capacity of 676 cars.[21] It is currently operated by Skyline (Greater Union/Hoyts) and Donna and Scott Seddon.
  • Dubbo Westview Drive In (1 Screen), Closed in the mid 1980s recently restored and reopened to special events- .[22]


Queensland had at one stage over fifty drive-ins. Now all of the suburban Brisbane drive-in theatres have closed leaving the Tivoli Drive-In in Ipswich, and the Gold Coast's Yatala as the closest drive-in theatres to Brisbane. In rural Queensland however, there are still a number of drive-in theatres operating.

Boondall Drive-In, May 1958

Brisbane's first drive-in was the Capalaba which opened in 1955. The Boondall Drive-in opened on 8 February 1956, at the time it had the largest screen in Australia. Kids were well catered for with a Merry-Go-Round, miniature Cobb & Co coach and Shetland Ponies to ride (Brisbane Telegraph, 6 Feb 1956). The site of the Boondall Drive-In has now been developed into housing.

The Burleigh Heads Drive-in was one of Queensland's first drive-ins when it opened in 1957 with a 500 car capacity. It was followed by the Starlight drive-in at Aspley, which was opened in January 1957 (at a cost of £100,000). Fourth to open, in April 1957, was Hoyts Skyline Drive-in located at Coopers Plains at a cost of £200,000. It could hold 650 cars on its 17 acres and also had a children's railway line, putt putt, badminton facilities and a dance floor.

The Starline Drive-In opened near Ipswich in the early 1960s. Other drive-ins opened in and around Brisbane in the late 1960s, early 1970s. These included the Keperra, the Western at Oxley, the Galaxy at Cannon Hill and the Redcliffe Drive-In on the city's northern outskirts.

In 2002 a small boutique drive-in was opened in Wonga (north of Gympie), with a second screen added in 2004, increasing it to a 250 car capacity. A third screen was subsequently added; however in January 2010 the drive-in closed, when its owner went into receivership.[23][24] In September 2010 a new owner took over the operation of the drive-in reopening in December that year.[25] The drive-in has recently closed.

  • Ayr Stardust Drive In, Ayr
The Stardust drive-in was opened in September 1964, with a capacity of 360 cars.[26] Built within the grounds is a hardtop cinema, so patrons can choose between outdoor and indoor movies.
Yatala Drive-In during a themed event in 2013
  • Yatala 3 Drive-In (3 screens), Yatala
The Yatala Drive-In is the Gold Coast's last open-air drive-in theatre (in an area which formerly had over 20 drive-in theatres), formerly Beenleigh Drive-In, it opened on 27 October 1974, and in 2000 the theatre was renamed Yatala Twin Drive-In when a second screen was added. A third screen was added in 2013.[27]
The Charters Towers Tors drive-in was opened in 1966 and has two screens with capacity for 300 cars.[28]
The Jericho drive-in is the smallest public drive-in located in Australia, and possibly the world, with a capacity for 36 cars. It was opened in 1969. Movies are screened once a month.[29]
The Mareeba Rodeo drive-in was built by Far Northern Theatres in the 1960s.[26] Far Northern Theatres had a circuit that extended right through far northern Queensland and into Papua New Guinea. The circuit was sold to Birch Carrol & Coyle in the 1970s.[26] In the mid-1980s, Birch Carrol & Coyle pulled out and the Rodeo was sold to Norm Janke. Janke operated the drive-in until 1998 when it closed.[26] It subsequently re-opened in 2002, with a 300 car capacity.

Western Australia[edit]

The first conventional drive-in located in Western Australia was the Highway, opened in the Perth suburb of Bentley on 24 October 1955,[1][30][31] with the screening of Cecil B. DeMille's The Greatest Show on Earth.[32] The Highway, owned and operated by John Pye (who founded the Ace entertainment and hospitality group), was located on a 6 ha (15 acres) former dairy farm, fronting Albany Highway.[32] It featured a 13 m (43 ft) high by 15 m (49 ft) wide screen on 240 t (260 tons) concrete footings, with a 642 car capacity, children's playground, mini golf course, cafeteria and approximately 30 staff.[32][33] The resultant success of the Highway started a boom in suburban drive-ins which saw a further eight operating by the end of the decade (the Skyline in Floreat in November 1955, Mott's in Gosnells in January 1956, the Panorama in Roleystone in March 1956, the Metro in Innaloo, the Lakeway in Swanbourne in April 1957, the Melway in Melville, the Wirrina in Morley in March 1959 and the Eastway in Belmont in July 1959), with another nine sites opening in the 1960s (including the Starline in Hilton). The growth of Perth's suburban drive-ins then slowed to only five more built during the 1970s with the last drive-in theatre, Aceway, in the suburb of Morley, constructed in 1980.[1][34]

In the country areas, the first to open was the Oasis in Geraldton in 1957, and there were only three more built in the 1950s; the Mayfair in Bunbury, the Avonway in Northam and the Morcady in Wongan Hills. The boom years in the country were the sixties, which saw 61 drive-ins opened, with growth then slowing to only six more built in the seventies and one in the eighties.[1][35]

By the 1990s there were only three suburban drive-ins that remained, but then the Metro (a twin screen site as of 1984) in Innaloo closed in 1993 followed by the Highway (a twin screen site as of 1986) in Bentley which closed on 19 June 1994; only the Galaxy (established 1 November 1973) in Kingsley remains open within the Perth surrounds.[1] There are however a few drive-in theatres and car-friendly outdoor cinemas still operating in rural Western Australia. The Dongara Drive-in, built in 1966 and opened in January 1967, has been in continual operation since this time. After a storm in 2008 the screen was replaced and the original projector upgraded. In 2015 the projector was upgraded to digital. The drive-in can accommodate 200 cars, whilst it only operates in summer it is the longest continually running drive-in in Western Australia. The Koorda Community Drive-in opened in October 1965; it closed in 1983 but reopened in 1987. It has a capacity of 110 cars, has been updated to digital, and screens monthly.

South Australia[edit]

The Blue-Line drive-in located in West Beach, Adelaide was the first drive-in located in South Australia,[36] and the first to be constructed outside of Melbourne.[37] It was opened on 28 December 1954, it was followed by the Mainline Drive-In theatre at Gepps Cross on 7 October 1955, which was Australia's first drive-in / walk-in theatre (with a capacity for 500 cars and seating for 400 patrons).[37] It was followed by the Shandon in Seaton in early July 1956, the Hi-Line in Panorama in March 1957, and the MGM Metro at Marion in June 1957.[37] The first country drive-in opened at Port Pirie in September 1957.[37]

Following the closure of the Valleyline at Modbury in May 2003 left only the Wallis Mainline Drive-in at Gepps Cross as the only remaining drive-in located in metropolitan Adelaide. [37] It still exists as at March 2020 and has had a boost in patronage during the coronavirus pandemic. In the country areas, the closing of Riverview at Murray Bridge in February 2005 (after 46 years)[38] and the Riverland in Barmera in September 2008,[39] only the community run facility at Coober Pedy, the Coober Pedy Open Air Outback Cinema, remains.[37]

Over the years, the list of drive-in's in metropolitan Adelaide included:[37]

  • Ocean Line Drive-In Theatre - Dyson Rd, Christie Downs
  • Star Line Drive In Elizabeth - Main North Rd, Hillbank
  • Mainline Drive-In Theatre - Gawler Rd, Gepps Cross
  • Star Line Drive In Gilles Plains - Blacks Rd, Gilles Plains
  • Star Line Drive In Hectorville - Glynburn Rd, Hectorville
  • Metro Drive-In Theatre Marion - Oaklands Rd, Marion
  • Park Line Drive-In Theatre - Marion Rd, Mitchell Park
  • Valley Line Drive-In Theatre - Tolley Rd, Modbury
  • Star Line Drive In O'Halloran Hill - Majors Rd, Darlington
  • Harbour Line Drive-In Theatre - Victoria Rd, Osborne
  • Hi-Line Drive-In Theatre - Goodwood Rd, Panorama
  • Hollywood Drive-In Theatre - Winzor St, Salisbury Downs
  • Star Line Drive In Seaton - Tapleys Hill Rd, Seaton
  • Blue Line Drive In Theatres - Military Rd, West Beach
  • Star Line Drive In Woodville North - Grand Junction Rd, Mansfield Park

Northern Territory[edit]

Darwin was home to the Paspalis (Nightcliff) Drive-in Theatre, the largest privately owned drive-in located in Australia, which was opened in 1965 and closed in 1985. The Alice Springs Star line Drive-in operated from 1975 to 1990 closing when The Alice Springs Cinema opened in 1989.

  • None still open,[40] although Darwin's Deckchair Cinema provides seats in an outdoor setting.


Tasmania previously had drive-in theatres at Glenorchy and Warrane in Hobart, and in Launceston, Devonport and Burnie. The last of Tasmania's drive-in theatres at Elwick and Mowbray closed in March 1985.[41]

Australian Capital Territory[edit]

Former Starlight drive-in sign, first neon sign in Canberra and the only drive-in sign in Australia that is still in its original location.[42]

The ACT had two drive-in theatres, the Starlight in Watson (opened in January 1957 and closed in 1993), which has now been redeveloped for medium-density housing,[43] and the Sundown at Narrabundah (opened in 1968 and closed in 1984),[44] which is now a motel and private housing village.

On 2 February 2018, the Southern Cross Drive-In theatre opened just over the ACT border in Queanbeyan. However, on 3 March a severe storm saw the screen damaged and it did not reopen.[40]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Bertrand, Ina (13 March 2006). "Bringing family life into the theatres". La Trobe University. Retrieved 11 January 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d "Burwood Skyline (Hoyts)". Drive-ins downunder. 1999. Archived from the original on 21 July 2008. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  3. ^ a b c "Drive-in Theatres". Australian Theatres Directory. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Coburg Triple Drive-in". Drive-ins downunder. 1999. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  5. ^ a b "Dromana Twin/Peninsula". Drive-ins downunder. 1999. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  6. ^ a b c d e "Dandenong Lunar (Panoramic)". Drive-ins downunder. 1999. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b "Burwood Drive-In Site". Victorian Heritage Database. Heritage Council of Victoria. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  9. ^ a b c Yarrow, Stephen (2010). "Icons: Drive-In Theatres". Baby Boomer Central. Australia On CD. Archived from the original on 23 February 2011. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  10. ^ "Preston Skyline/Hoyts". Drive-ins downunder. 1999. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  11. ^ a b "Oakleigh Skyline/Hoyts". Drive-ins downunder. 1999. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  12. ^ a b "Broadmeadows Skyline (Hoyts)". Drive-ins downunder. 1999. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  13. ^ .
  14. ^ Williams, Lauren (27 October 2007). "Rescue bid for oldest drive-in". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 18 January 2011.
  15. ^ "Bass Hill Skyline". Drive-ins downunder. 1999. Retrieved 18 January 2011.
  16. ^ a b "First place in NSW to open a Drive-in". Newcastle Herald. 28 September 1999. Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 18 January 2011.
  17. ^ Hogben, Paul (June 2014). Leisure Space: The Transformation of Sydney 1945-1970. UNSW Press. pp. 152–155. ISBN 9781742246802.
  18. ^ "North Ryde Skyline". Australian Drive-Ins. Drive-ins Downunder. Retrieved 20 October 2015.
  19. ^ a b "Blacktown Skyline". Drive-ins downunder. 1999. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  20. ^ Dent, Nick (15 May 2020). "Sydney's getting a drive-in cinema, and the program is truly awesome". Time Out Sydney. Retrieved 17 May 2020.
  21. ^ Downunder, Yalcin Yilmaz, Catapult Design House; for Drive-ins. "Drive-ins Downunder - Australian Drive-ins". Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  22. ^ "Westview Drive In". Westview Drivein. Retrieved 13 May 2019.
  23. ^ "Wonga Drive-in's gates close". The Gympie Times. 28 January 2010. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  24. ^ "Wonga drive-in a going concern". The Gympie Times. 3 February 2010. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  25. ^ Morrissey, Carly (25 September 2010). "Back to the drive-in future". The Gympie Times. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  26. ^ a b c d "Ayr Stardust". Drive-ins downunder. 1999. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  27. ^ "Triple treat at drive-in".
  28. ^ "Charters Towers Tors". Drive-ins downunder. 1999. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  29. ^ "Jericho". Drive-ins downunder. 1999. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  30. ^ Banks, Ron.(1987) Brief history of drive-in theatres Western mail, 19 Sept 1987, p. 38,
  31. ^ Bowley, Michelle(1988) Drive-in theatres in WA.Media information - Australia, Feb 1988, p. 12-16,
  32. ^ a b c Bellos, Karen (17 September 2020). "Driving to Distraction". Gockburn Gazette. Community Newspapers.
  33. ^ Honniball, Jack. "Cinemas 1896-1985". Murdoch University. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  34. ^ Yelland, R. A. (1976) Drive-ins collection, 1933-1976 [manuscript].Battye Library, MN 1941, Papers of R.A. Yelland, ACC 5531A. Sound engineer and theatre circuit manager. Records from Consolidated Theatres Pty Ltd and related organisations in the film exhibition industry, especially drive-in cinemas in Western Australia. The records include items from Consolidated Theatres, Greater X-Tone Amusements, National Theatre Supply Company, Metropolitan Cinemas, West Australian Motion Pictures Exhibitors Association, Great Northern, City, Twin City, Carnarvon, Pingelly, Carnamah and Laverton Drive-ins.
  35. ^ Perth's drive-in theatres closing due to competition from videos Daily news, 15 July 1988, p. 14,
  36. ^ "As society changes, newspapers reflect the attitudes of the times". Events in the News. State Library of South Australia. Retrieved 18 January 2011.
  37. ^ a b c d e f g Talbot, Michael (22 January 2007). "Drive-In Theatres". SA Memory. State Library of South Australia. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  38. ^ "Murray Bridge Riverview". Drive-ins downunder. 1999. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  39. ^ "Barmera Riverland/Boneyline". Drive-ins downunder. 1999. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  40. ^ a b c "Theatres". Australian Theatres Directory. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  41. ^ "1950s-1980s, Post-war Tasmania". 1384.6 - Statistics - Tasmania, 2005. Australian Bureau of Statistics. 13 September 2002. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  42. ^ "Heritage (Decision about Registration for the Starlight Drive-In Theatre Sign, Watson) Notice 2012" (PDF). ACT Heritage Council. Australian Capital Territory Government. 23 February 2012. Retrieved 29 March 2012.[permanent dead link]
  43. ^ Harris, Eleri (7 October 2010). "Canberra CityNews". p. 15. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  44. ^ "Report on the Canberra Leashold System" (PDF). House of Representatives Standing Committee on Transport, Communications and Infrastructure. November 1988. p. 36. Retrieved 14 January 2011.[permanent dead link]

External links[edit]