Thunderbird Drive-In

11091 Folsom Boulevard,
Rancho Cordova, CA 95670

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Thunderbird Drive-In

This drive-in was located beside Highway 50 and Sunrise Boulevard near Sacramento and opened as the Fox Thunderbird Drive-In on September 1, 1965 with Tom Tryon in “The Glory Guys” & Steve McQueen in “The Great Escape”. It had a way cool children’s playground there. It was closed in 1982 and was torn down in the early-1980’s.

Contributed by William J Monahan

Recent comments (view all 9 comments)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 23, 2008 at 3:47 am

This location is in Rancho Cordova. The address Lost Memory posted is correct.

The theater was scheduled for a fall, 1965, opening, according to an item in the May 31, 1965, issue of Boxoffice Magazine. The name had not yet been chosen. The drive-in was being built by National General Corporation, and was slated to accommodate 1,182 cars. The architect was Gale Santocono, of San Francisco.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 26, 2009 at 12:38 am

Boxoffice Magazine’s issue of October 25, 1965, gives the opening date of National General’s Thunderbird Drive-In as September 1 that year. It also confirms the car capacity as 1,182, and the architect as Gale Santocono.

Backseater on May 14, 2016 at 6:09 pm

Saw the original “Planet of the Apes” there in 1968. I was in USAF Navigator School at MAther AFB which was just down the road.

DishpanHands on September 30, 2016 at 4:03 pm

Does anyone remember a drive-in in the 1960s on Folsom Blvd. between Mather Field and Bradshow, on the right (north) side of Folsom Blvd as you’re heading toward Sacramento? I don’t remember its name, but am pretty sure I’m not thinking of the Thunderbird.

NYozoner on December 8, 2016 at 5:27 am

DishpanHands: The drive-in you are referring to was the Mather Auto Movies.

DishpanHands on August 24, 2017 at 3:28 pm

NYozoner I just saw your message, thank you! I was so curious that I went to the State Library to look at the old phonebooks to see if I could find it. It was indeed the one you say, and was listed under “Mather Auto Drive” with the phone number 363-5959. It didn’t list the address other than “Folsom Blvd.” I did see it mentioned in a few old drive-in journals for the trade.

davidcoppock on October 6, 2018 at 8:38 am

Opened 9/1/1965. Closed in 1982. Site is now occupied by various bussinesses.

rivest266 on May 4, 2019 at 10:36 pm

This opened on September 1st, 1965 with Harve Preswell, Tally Savalas, Lee Anthony and Chairman Carr in attendance. Grand opening ad posted.

MichaelKilgore on November 4, 2019 at 4:05 pm

The April 6, 1966 issue of Motion Picture Exhibitor, AKA the 1966 Theatre Catalog, gave the new Thunderbird a full page. The photos have already been posted here, and here’s some of the text:

Fox West Coast Theatres' new Thunderbird Drive-In represents an investment of approximately $600,000 in land and structures. Architext Gale Santocono of San Francisco drew the plans for the 1,182 car drive-in, located on Folson Boulevard at Sunrise Avenue, east of Rancho Cordova.

Its 74-ft. high screen tower has a special corrugated facing which curbs distortion at extreme side viewing angles. A chain link fence, with redwood fillers, is 22 ft. high to mask auto lights on the Boulevard. The entire ramp field, including driveways, is surfaced in asphalt paving meeting roadway standards.

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