Rancho Drive-In

1515 Euclid Avenue,
San Diego, CA 92105

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hannibaltharadio on July 22, 2014 at 4:39 pm

hello Gmcphatter!! I lived in Emerald Hills also.. on Geneva.. my dad was in the Navy too!!! We could see the Rancho Drive in films real good from our back door steps and the kitchen window… we could watch the movies while were doing the dishes. Yes the Cox Cable facility is the site of the Rancho Drive in… The entrance was roughly a few steps from the north side of tha McDonalds… I live in LA now but when I am in SD that’s still my hood…

tuffluck7 on July 8, 2013 at 10:24 am

I saw “The Greatest Show on Earth” there 26 times, each time with a different girl. And it was all free! Are you still in Emerald Hills?

gmcphatter on July 7, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Tuffluck7, I’m not quite as old as you, but you are so RIGHT! My family moved to San Diego in 1959; to Emerald Hills to be be exact; which is right across the freeway and up the hill from where the drive in was. As a matter of fact, you could stand at the top of Kelton Road, or in the parking lot of “the church on the hill” or Johnson Elementary school, and see the movies that were playing! At that time, that portion of Emerald Hills had not been developed with housing (facing west to northwest); I think this was the reason. No houses went up on that portion of the neighborhood until well after the drive in had closed.

I have MANY found memories of attending movies at the Rancho in our 1965, 9 passenger, Pontiac Safari station wagon (which was purchased from John Hine Pontiac) with my other 5 siblings. My father was a chaplain in the Navy and was overseas alot, so sometimes he would be with us, but most of the time my mother would take us. To this day I still remember once when he was in town and took just the boys to see the 1966 release of Beau Geste starring Telly Savalas; his famous line, “Always expect, the unexpected!”

I don’t recall when it closed but it was vacant and abandoned for about five years before it was finally torn down. First a GMC truck dealership went up at the base off of Federal and then Cox Cable came in, took over and built on the rest of the property. Another lost gem to “progress”.

tuffluck7 on July 5, 2013 at 4:37 pm

This IS the Rancho Drive In of San Diego! It was located on the Southeast corner of Euclid Ave. & Federal Blvd. The entrance driveway to Mc.Donalds is the approximate entrance. It headed straight to the back of the screen building on which was the desert mural. The driveway turned a sharp right downhill to the box office.

To the left of the driveway entrance slightly uphill to Federal was a sunken Frostie Stand building upon which a Marque (three sided) stood. You had to lean over to give the girl your order. A Cheveron gas station was built on this spot. It is now a New Orleans type fish drive thru.

The theater property extended all the way from Federal Blvd. south to were Hiwy 94 is know. The eastern boundary was approximately at the Dion truck sales & repair is now.

How do I know this? I worked there when I was a teenager. I was 16 when I started in 1952 and worked to 1954. It was a dream job, I got in free as much as I wanted. But that’s another story.

jwmovies on November 12, 2012 at 12:14 pm

Approx. address for this drive-in was 1515 Euclid Avenue. The entrance is now McDonald’s!

rivest266 on April 6, 2012 at 12:03 pm

This opened on January 28th, 1948. Grand opening ad in the photo section.

TLSLOEWS on July 15, 2010 at 4:16 pm

Thanks S.S. looks like it.

Silicon Sam
Silicon Sam on July 13, 2010 at 9:37 pm

Here’s Federal Blvd and Euclid intersection circa 1964. A large drive in appears at the SE corner of the intersection.


Don Lewis
Don Lewis on July 13, 2010 at 8:40 pm

From 1948 a photo that captured a partial view of the Rancho Drive In marquee along with a man standing underneath.

arriano on April 12, 2010 at 3:25 pm

At the corner of Euclid and Federal there is the nearly vacant Metropolitan Shopping Center. I would bet that that’s the former location of the Rancho Drive-In. Either that or the grounds of Cox Communications across the street.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on July 27, 2009 at 6:33 pm

I just noticed that the link I posted to the San Diego Weekly Reader web page at 8:46pm last night no longer works. I suggest a Google search on “San Diego Rancho Drive-In” (but without the quotation marks) to find it (it’s the first result.) It’s way easier than trying to use the Reader’s internal search function.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on July 27, 2009 at 6:18 pm

The Life Magazine photos are definitely of the Rancho Drive-In in San Diego. The screen tower and its mural are easily recognizable in both the 1948 Boxoffice Magazine photos and the photos on the San Diego Weekly Reader web page. I don’t know how the editors of Life managed to displace the theater more than five hundred miles from its actual location.

GaryParks on July 26, 2009 at 8:46 pm

Just weighing-in with a little observation here: I have never heard of a Rancho (or El Rancho) drive-in in San Francisco. This is not to say there may not have been one. Jack Tillmany’s Theatres of San Francisco makes no mention of it. More than this, though—the photos show a terrain that is just too flat behind the screen for anywhere within San Francisco. Also, the design of screen tower architectural embellishment is of a style and elaborateness I have never seen in the Bay Area—thinking back to drive-ins I either saw or viewed photos of. There was an EL Rancho in San Jose, but its screen tower had a cowboy on horseback, let alone the EL in the name. The Rancho in question looks like a type that would have been built in Southern California and areas throughout the Southwest.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on July 26, 2009 at 8:46 pm

Apparently the Life photos are of the Rancho in San Diego. The San Diego Weekly Reader has this web page about the area’s drive-ins, and the Life photos of the Rancho are among the illustrations. There’s considerable information about the Rancho there, too.

More photos appear in the April 24, 1948, issue of Boxoffice. It’s unmistakably the San Diego Rancho that Life mistakenly places in San Francisco.

I can’t find the Rancho in San Diego listed at Cinema Treasures yet, so the location for this page could just be corrected to San Diego. The only address I can find for it is Federal Boulevard at Euclid, San Diego, 92105. That would be just about 5100 Federal. Google satellite views show that the land has all been developed for other uses, so the Rancho Drive-In has been demolished.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on July 26, 2009 at 7:26 pm

I don’t think this drive-in was in San Francisco. The Life Magazine photo collection is pretty loose with its locations. Once caption on a photo of a theater in Ventura places it in Los Angeles, for example.

There was an El Rancho Drive-In in South San Francisco, already listed at Cinema Treasures, but I don’t think this is the same theater. The name on the screen tower is Rancho Drive-In, not El Rancho Drive-In.

There’s a possibility that the photo depicts the Rancho Drive-In in the east bay suburb of San Pablo. This Rancho Drive-In was mentioned in Boxoffice Magazine as early as 1951. I’ve been unable to find out if the Rancho in San Pablo was operating in 1948, and I can’t find any photos of it on the Internet, so I can’t be sure that the drive-in in that photo was the one in San Pablo, but I’m 99% sure there was never a Rancho Drive-In in the city of San Francisco.