‘That’s gold’: 50th birthday celebrations of Dubbo’s Drive-In

Brooke Chandler

The old and the young soaked up a cultural phenomenon

Key points:

  • The October long weekend marked 50 years since the opening of Dubbo’s Westview Drive-In
  • Insight into the rocky history of Westview Drive-In
  • Locals recall their fondest memories
  • Operator of Westview Drive-In reveals the outcome of the birthday celebrations

Dubbo’s Westview Drive-In celebrated 50 years of ‘watching film stars underneath the stars’ during the October long weekend.

The weekend included screenings of the Australian cult classic ‘Running on Empty’ on Friday and Saturday nights, and the family favourite ‘Grease’ on Sunday night.

This Golden Anniversary is a milestone unlike any other: Westview Drive-In is only one of three drive-in cinemas still operating in NSW, and the only drive-in cinema operating west of the Blue Mountains.

Having pressed play, then pause, then play again on the showing films of the ‘big screen’ over the decades, the Westview Drive-In has been a nostalgic reminder of our changing cultural and technological appetites.

Photographer Kale McGuinness caught the most picturesque coverage of the Drive-In location

The origins of a social icon

Following the growth of drive-in cinemas in America, Westview Pty Ltd, a Mildura based company, bought the Century Theatre. They built the Westview Drive-In on its current Mitchell Highway location, equipped with a 550 car-capacity and 100 by 40ft screen.

The Westview Drive-In team wanted authenticity by leaving some older components of the site

The official opening on October 8, 1970, screened the Clint Eastwood classic ‘Kelly’s Heroes’.

At the time, it was reported, “The opening of the Westview Drive-In puts Dubbo strides ahead of other western centres of film entertainment and will draw visitors nightly within a radius of 50 miles.”

Many people in the region still have fond memories of the Drive-In as the focal point of Dubbo’s 1970’s social scene: anything from first dates, microphone posts going ‘wandering’, and mischievous visitors hiding in car boots to avoid paying for a ticket!

The place to be!

Drive-In fan, Audrey O’Brien said, “I had a little black Morris Minor with no seatbelts in those days”, she said. “We would often drive from Wellington to Dubbo during the school holidays to see the kids shows. I would be driving with four of my kids and two neighbour’s kids in my tiny car.”

Former staff member, Laurie (Max) Newton, said,

“During my time, the Westview Drive-In was the place to be! It wasn’t uncommon for the line of cars getting in to back up approximately two kilometres away.”

The recollections of former projectionist, Ian Perry, reveal that to many, Westview Drive-In was more than just a drive-in cinema.

“It was a tough job at times, working 7 days a week. But it bought me happiness knowing I was responsible for making an enjoyable atmosphere.”

Drive-In downtime

A Daily Liberal article from July 1, 1984, reveals a deep sadness within the community regarding the closure of Westview Drive-In.

“Going to the drive-in on a Saturday night is now social patterns of the past… Severe downturn in patronage is considered to be major contributing factor in the closure… The fact is, people now prefer to sit at home and watch video movies on their own TV screens.”

An large array of archival posters were pulled out of storage and admired for the 50th birthday events

Unused for 30 years, Dubbo’s Drive-In was often referred to as “Chernobyl on location.”

Extensive community encouragements saw the Westview Drive-In reopen in 2018.

Drive-In fan, Maree Barnes, said,

“Going to the Drive-In did not disappoint… I was really excited about it reopening. It was an important part of Dubbo’s social life.”

The current pricing of $40 per car has seen a spike in regional visitors and is exactly the attention the Dubbo community needs.

It appears more people will be given to the chance to relive or even discover a social icon following recent plans to screen films most weekends for the foreseeable future.

Westview Drive-In Operator reveals the outstanding results of the birthday weekend

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