South Bay Drive-In: A timeless theatre for all ages


Caroline Jethmal

South Bay Drive-In Theatre and Swap Meet located at 2170 Coronado Ave, San Diego.

Caroline Jethmal, Reporter

Need some time away from a load of homework and a little time under the stars? Look no further! Located at 2170 Coronado Ave, San Diego, the South Bay Drive-In is a great, affordable place to go to watch outdoor movies.


Caroline Jethmal

Watching a movie at a drive-in is no new activity, and there has been a resurgence of interest throughout recent years, although only a few hundred remain in the United States. Alexandro Morales has worked for the South Bay Drive in for 20 years.

“I know the swap meet drive-in has been [open] since 1942,” Morales said. “This is a big company who started theatres all around the United States… in Atlanta, Phoenix, Riverside, Vegas, and right here, so it’s a big company.”

Movie projecting has long been changed by the growing popularity of the digital world. This has made the job more efficient and easier.

“In the past, we’ve projected movies with big reels,” Morales said. “[It is] more of a job on the older [movies], but I prefer that way. Right now if you have a problem with the movie, that’s it. And with the older movies you have to fix the problem right [away].”

South Bay Drive-In is open 7 days a week. Movies are shown frequently and after a long grace period, movie goers have been itching to watch their favorite actors on the big screens. Big screens, meaning 100-foot-tall, massive screens.

Caroline Jethmal

“We show 2 movies in each theatre, 3 theatres and [on] the weekends [we show] the movies 3 times,” Morales said. “During the week, 2 times only.”

The new machinery has replaced film reels, a light circular frame designed to hold motion picture film and display it. The problem with those is that they are unreliable and prone to malfunction, hence why they are mostly retired at South Bay.

“[We are using] new machines,” Morales said. “The company sends the movies on reels. We have to put together 7 or 6 reels. The movies show 2 pictures, whole screen and flat screen. Usually the older movies come on a flat screen.”

Brandon Faulkner is a sophomore at Carlsbad High School. He first went to a drive-in movie theater a year ago, with his mom.

“We just looked around for movie theatres and nothing was open because of the pandemic, so she was like; let’s go to a drive-in,” Faulkner said.

The timeless activity is entertaining, even in the modern age. The Drive-In business has managed to sustain itself for many years, and it makes movie watching ever more special.

“It was pretty fun,” Faulkner said. “[We watched] an old Christmas movie.”

Caroline Jethmal

Morales holds sentimental value to the old drive-in. He has enjoyed it as much as Faulkner, Faulkner’s mother, and everyone else who finds themself enchanted by the fun night.

“Usually I would bring my kids here to see the movies on my day off, and with my grandkids I came to see the movies,” Morales said. “It’s a very nice place and you can bring your own food and drinks, if you want… you know we sell here!”