Movies under the stars

West Wind Sacramento 6 Drive-In puts nostalgia into focus

Going to a movie at the drive-in is still a Sac summer staple.

Going to a movie at the drive-in is still a Sac summer staple.

Photo courtesy of Syufy Enterprises

The light fades as the smell of popcorn wafts through the air and headlights shut off one by one. Rows of cars that are parked on asphalt point toward a 100-foot wide screen. As the sun sets further below the horizon, a powerful projector shines a film beneath a darkening sky.

Since 1973, the West Wind Sacramento 6 Drive-In has been a staple—and despite a decline among drive-ins around the country over the years, it’s not going anywhere.

In recent months, Syufy Enterprises, the outdoor theater’s owner, has invested money and resources, including repaving the asphalt parking lot and renovating the bathrooms and concessions counter, said Tony Maniscalco, Syufy’s vice president of marketing.

In the past, West Wind faced imminent closure, Maniscalco said. A nostalgia for simpler, streaming-free options has changed that.

“Now we feel like we have the opportunity to invest in [the drive in] and to improve the location as we have done with some of our other locations,” he said.

Paving is complete for at least three screens, with the rest temporarily postponed due to rain, while the renovations are just in time for the summer season.

Drive-in theaters have been part of American culture since their peak in the 1950s, when there were more than 4,000. There are only about 330 left in America, but Syufy hasn’t given up on the tradition just yet.

The Sacramento location is “well-performing,” according to Maniscalco, giving Syufy the confidence to invest in upgrades and weekly offerings such as “Family Fun Nights” and “Free Movie Tuesdays”.

This summer will also debut a new series of Saturday events for children, including bounce houses, face painting and open markets. The kid-friendly focus, as well as the renovations, are part of an effort to modernize the tradition for the future.

“Families are in lawn chairs when it’s hot outside or bundled up in the back of a pickup truck. It’s a slice of Americana,” Maniscalco said. “It’s kind of old school and high technology all rolled into one.”

9616 Oates Drive;