Mooney Drive-In to be demolished

posted by ArtVandalet on August 3, 2006 at 1:15 pm

VISALIA, CA — The Mooney Theater Drive-In Theater is slated for demolition in September 2006. This is a dual screen theater in perfect working order. What a classic, what a shame!

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Comments (7)

RBrecht on August 10, 2006 at 3:30 pm

I am sorry to hear that the Mooney Drive-In will be closed soon & demolished. I would like to hear news of any events scheduled there soon before closing, and especially appreciate any photos that others have on this Valley Institution. The link to the photo did not work. I am curious as to what will replace the theater on that site.

cwilson on August 18, 2006 at 10:47 pm

The following article was published in the Visalia Times-Delta on August 17th.

There are only 23 days left to catch a double-feature at the Mooney Drive-In Theatre before the lights go out for good.

The drive-in will show its last feature on Sept. 7.

But a “grand closing” party is planned for Sept. 9 that promises to take moviegoers back to the 1950s and the glory days of drive-in theaters.

“I think the theater needs to be closed with dignity,” property owner Johnny George said. “We want as many people as possible to share in the festivities."
Here’s what’s on the schedule:

3 p.m. Car show sponsored by the Visalia Vapor Trailers.
BBQ tri-tip dinner prepared by New Hope Church
Music by The Blue Onyx
Musical performance by Tulare County Sheriff Bill Wittman.
Movies start at dusk, showing “Grease” starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John and “Viva Las Vegas” starring Elvis Presley.
10:30 p.m. Fireworks finale.
George, 71, bought the land the theater occupies and is turning it into an office complex.

He said he expects as many as 3,000 people to attend the grand closing, and he’s trying to make it as easy as possible by rolling prices back to $5 a carload. He said the theater can hold about 600 cars between the two screens, and if the place fills up, people can walk-up with a lawn chair and pay 99 cents to watch the final show.

Overflow parking will be available at the old Lumberjack and Grocery Outlet parking lots.

While there may be quite a buzz surrounding the final shows, attendance at the theater has been steadily declining for some time, theater manager Jerry Mann said.

“It has fallen off since the Galaxy Theatres opened in Tulare, and it never really came back like it should,” Mann said. “People get all teary-eyed but still they don’t show up.”

How old?

Mann, 68, said he was born and raised in Tulare, and he remembers going to the drive-in theater when it first opened.
Trouble is, he doesn’t know if that was 1946 or 1947.

Neither does George, even though he lived next door to it for years.

Nor does local historian Terry Ommen, who is researching the theater’s history.

“All I know for sure is that it was the Motor Inn Theatre when it first opened,” he said, “and sometime in the mid-60s it changed to the Mooney Theatre.”

Ommen also wonders if the regular ticket price was a per-person rate and occasionally switched to a car-load rate based on what was playing.

“It had to be per person regularly, otherwise why would anyone go in inside the trunk?” he said.

Ommen thinks the trunk was the most coveted spot in the car.

“I think half the population of Visalia entered that theater in the trunk,” Ommen said.

But George thinks it was another location.

“I think half the population of Visalia was conceived in that theater,” he said.

wolfiewolf on August 29, 2006 at 8:37 pm

Why so much complaining about this cummy old theater coming down? when are they going to start the demo? Will it be right after the grand closing party? I really want to see the big yellow CAT machines start tearing into this place. LOL.

ibbrownnow on September 7, 2006 at 3:58 pm

I am so sad to hear that a piece of Visalia history is coming to a close. My family and I have enjoyed many evenings at this great theater. Four years ago, I married a man from this area and moved up here. I still remember HYW 39 Drive-in which was the last of its kind in Orange County. I am glad my children have had the opportunity to experience what I enjoyed as a kid/teenager. I only wish my grandkids would have had the same opportunity.

Our Corvair Club will be there on Saturday to celebrate the long life and fond memories at the Mooney Drive-in. We will miss the evenings in our lawn chairs, peacocks running about, and good times we shared as a family watching movies at this great theater. Thanks for the wonderful family memories.

The Brown Family

wolfiewolf on September 7, 2006 at 5:47 pm

Can’t wait to see the big yellow CAT machines start tearing this place apart. This is progress—why do you people want to stop it for some sentimental reasons.

Let the wrecking ball swing!!

wolfiewolf on September 7, 2006 at 5:47 pm

When is the demo set to begin??

ibbrownnow on September 8, 2006 at 5:12 pm

History is something we hold on to and cherish. Our memories of family outings are things we would like to pass on from generation to generation. While progress helps keep our city beautiful, I would rather us invest in keep our historical sites around for generatons to enjoy.

This old theater is a place where we could take our kids to see a movie for an affordable price. As our children mature, they still enjoy piling into one or two of our classic cars and heading for the drive-in. That just made our family outing just a little more fun.

One day they will tell their kids of a time when you could sit under the stars and watch a movie on a big screen. They will wish they could share this experience with them. But, they will not be able to because the old theater was torn down and replaced with office buildings.

Progress is not always a good thing. Many will suffer so that the life of another can be made easier or more profitable.

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