Hoyts 16th Street Drive-In
16th Street, Mildura
Showing films from: 1958
Hoyts 16th Street Drive-in opened in 1958, four years after Australia had seen its first drive-in open – the Skyline in the Melbourne suburb of Burwood. Hoyts 16th Street was the first of two drive-in cinemas in Mildura, the second, called Crossroads, opened just a block away a few years later.
Surrounded by palm trees and orange groves, Hoyts 16th Street was very much a tropical drive-in. It was situated on 16th Street on the corner with Deakin Avenue, in a location that was still quite rural at the time and looking very different than it does today, the large cinema screen would have no doubt dominated the skyline of the surrounding landscape.
Hoyts 16th Street had rows of white posts that cars would park next to so they could hang speaker attachments onto their car windows, which brought the film soundtrack directly into the car. Later this system would have been replaced when it became the norm to broadcast the film’s soundtrack across a local AM or FM radio channel, which the car radio could be tuned into.
The drive-in was well equipped with other forms of entertainment too, such as a playground to keep children occupied while their parents watched early evening films. There was also a snack bar, deckchairs and parasols to add to the tropical feel.
At its peak, Hoyts 16th Street could accommodate 700 cars all lined up in rows forming a semi-circle around the screen. Not all the cars would face the screen through as it was common for passages in station wagons to park in reverse, opened the trunk and lay in the back to watch the film. Other drive-in stories include tails of people hiding in car trunks so they could get in for free or underage patrons hiding under blankets so could get into watch ‘X’ rated films with their older brothers or sisters.
In June 1971 the drive-in had an Italian themed programme, showing both an off-beat spaghetti western called A Man Called Sledge (1970, dir. Vic Morrow/ Giorgio Gentili) which starred James Garner and Dennis Weaver, and an Italian superhero comic film called Superargo Vs Diabolicus (1966/9, dir. Nick Nostro, with Ken Wood, Gérard Tichy). Perhaps the snack bar put on a special menu that night of spaghetti?
Hoyts 16th Street was the first of the two drive-ins in town to close, with most homes having televisions, Cinema Deakin having opened four years previously and the Crossroad Drive-In a little closer to town the competition got the better of this tropical drive-in and it closed in 1979. But its cinematic traces still remain the names of the streets that make up the new housing estate that now stands on the drive-in’s former spot echo its past with names like ‘Hoyts Drive’, ‘Hollywood Boulevard’, ‘Eastwood Drive’ and ‘Pacino Court’.
Photo credit: David Kilderry, Drive-Ins Downunder