291 N. State College Boulevard,
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The Orange Drive-In opened in June 1941 among the orange groves on Highway 101 and Placentia Avenue. This was when nearby Los Angeles just had a few drive-ins itself including its first, the Pico Drive-In. Movie advertisements in the Santa Ana Army Air Base newspaper show that it was just called “Drive-In.”
This was probably the first exposure to the early Southern California drive-in culture to thousands of soldiers who swarmed to the air base from every state.
In 1955, by the time Disneyland opened two miles away, the Santa Ana Freeway had replaced Highway 101 and Placentia Avenue had become State College Boulevard. From 1955 to 1961 Dr. Robert Schuller held Sunday morning services here, preaching to the cars from the roof of the snack bar.
Orange County would go on to have at its peak in the 1970’s with 11 drive-ins mostly managed, like this one, by Pacific Theatres. In 1969 and the early-1970’s the drive-in received some competition when Syufy (now Century) Theatres came into Orange and built a 4-screen drive-in two miles away and the 70mm-equipped indoor Cinedome on property adjacent to the Orange Drive-In. About this time the Orange Drive-In added a second screen.
The Orange Drive-In ran Spanish-language movies in its later days and closed in the early-1990’s but continued to operate its traditional swap meet, which had been going on since the middle 1970’s.
Many budding entrepreneurs who would later to go on to build their own retail stores and companies got their start at this swap meet.
Its screens were torn down in 1997 to make an off-ramp for the widening of the freeway. In 2003 all that remained were the old snack bar, the swap meet and plans to erect apartments on the site.
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