El Rancho Drive-In

1505 Almaden Road,
San Jose, CA 95125

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El Rancho mural by Don Clever just prior to demolition

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The El Rancho Drive-In was located at the corner of Alma Avenue and what is now Almaden Expressway in San Jose. It was opened in 1950. The outstanding element of decor here was the back side of the screen, which faced the intersection of Alma Avenue and Vine Street. It had a huge depiction of a cowboy on a horse with a lasso on an earth-toned background, all outlined in glowing white neon to give a backlit effect. There was a covered ramp seating area which had 163 Heywaood-Wakefield chairs that were covered with Lumite upholstery fabric.

The El Rancho Drive-In was replaced by condos in the early-1980’s. This theatre thrived for years just a few blocks away from the Spartan Drive-In which was located at South 1st Street and Alma Avenue. The Spartan Drive-In disappeared around the same time as the El Rancho Drive-In and has been replaced by an office complex.

Contributed by Ralph P

Recent comments (view all 24 comments)

jparedes3
jparedes3 on August 23, 2010 at 11:42 am

Thank you Silicon Sam for the Historic Aerials link; can’t wait to get my hands on some actual photos; perhaps one will surface someday since my Grandma lived next door in the 50’s – 60’s

f18shack
f18shack on June 4, 2011 at 4:31 pm

Found an old photo of the cowboy mural on the screen before it was demolished! Happy days…

rivest266
rivest266 on June 19, 2011 at 12:27 pm

Boxoffice 1950 08 05 page 154 has an good aerial of this drive-in theatre.

trainman
trainman on June 19, 2011 at 1:58 pm

Thanks f18shack I live in Dunsmuir Ca and have found two people that lived in San Jose during it’s existance and they remember the cowboy mural as kids and were excited to see it again….have a good one

jparedes3
jparedes3 on June 20, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Thanks Rivest266! Love the aerial pdf!

bbrown1
bbrown1 on March 14, 2012 at 9:57 pm

There is also a photo of the El Rancho on the cover of BOXOFFICE 7/15/50,and the issue spotlights all the new drive in’s being built in 1950

jparedes3
jparedes3 on March 15, 2012 at 11:40 am

Is there a link to BOXOFFICE 7/15/50; haven’t located it [yet]; thanks!

bbrown1
bbrown1 on March 18, 2012 at 4:55 pm

BOXOFFICE now has most of their back issues on line. Just go to their website, and look for archives.

lillokeno
lillokeno on March 24, 2012 at 3:15 pm

Remember it well..Boxed Pop Corn and sold tickets for the owner at that time. Paul R Catalana Also booked the Beatles and other artists of the time.. Last movie I seen there was “Play Misty for Me”

I then went on to the Tropicaire Twin View Drive In in the early 1960’s
Ray

jparedes3
jparedes3 on March 27, 2012 at 2:45 pm

Lillokeno: where was the Tropicaire: on Alum Rock Ave?

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