Last drive-in under the stars

Above: Mikaela Rogers and Nicole Heppell work at Perth’s only remaining drive-in cinema since 1994. Right: Nicole Edmonds of Madeley and Julie Pilcher from Busselton enjoy a movie under the stars. Words and pictures: Lucy Jarvis
Above: Mikaela Rogers and Nicole Heppell work at Perth’s only remaining drive-in cinema since 1994. Right: Nicole Edmonds of Madeley and Julie Pilcher from Busselton enjoy a movie under the stars. Words and pictures: Lucy Jarvis

The Galaxy Drive-In Theatre was one of the last to open in Perth in 1973, with current owners among the original six partners.

A spokesman said it continued to be a relatively cheap night out for people who wanted to see recent movies in a relaxed environment, many sitting inside their cars.

‘The drive-in provides customers with a different experience to other types of movie entertainment and has continued to remain popular for almost 40 years,’ he said.

‘Quite often people bring their own chairs and decide to sit outdoors and watch the movies.’

Others will reverse into the parking bays, open the rear doors and sit or lie in the back of their vehicles, or make themselves comfortable in ute trays while the movie is shown.

The movies are screened using a digital projection system, with Tuesday night specials and double-movie screenings on weekends drawing in audiences.

The owners manage the drive-in themselves and employ mainly students on a part-time basis, including Mikaela Rogers and Nicole Heppell (pictured) who have worked there for six and three years respectively.

‘It’s a great job ” the atmosphere that the drive-in has,’ Miss Rogers said.

‘It’s the last one left in Perth, so it makes you feel special working here.’

Wanneroo Regional Museum’s community history librarian Carol Leigh said the nearest venue used to be Wanneroo’s Moonline Drive-in, built in 1974 on Archer Street, in what is now Pearsall.

Ms Leigh said Moonline was built on bush land with a strip of natural bush, and three huge lamps lit it up.

‘They also had self-service catering facilities designed to speed things up and reduce the time you had to wait,’ she said.

Hoyts bought its operator, City Theatres, in 1988 and soon sold the Moonline site for $350,000.

‘It was demolished and cleared for a housing estate,’ Ms Leigh said.’There was a huge demand for housing, so land values went up.’

Ms Leigh said Perth’s first drive-in was in Bentley, built in the mid-1950s, and by the beginning of 1960, there were another eight around Perth.

‘In the decade of the 1960s, they had built another nine, then growth slowed in the 1970s’ she said. ‘Wanneroo and Galaxy were built in the late phase, almost at the tail end.’

The community historian said the ‘R’ rating for films was introduced in 1972, and Galaxy had continued to screen those movies as well as ‘G’ rating movies during school holidays.