El Rancho Drive-In

1505 Almaden Road,
San Jose, CA 95125

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Showing 1 - 25 of 26 comments

CRPavone on August 10, 2015 at 9:03 am

Best kids area of the big 4 (the others being The San Jose, The Spartan, and The Tropicaire). The El Rancho had real rides and the Southern Pacific Railroad mainline ran right alongside the property. Pre1959 SP ran steam locomotives and I would watch their white plumes blow skywards as they raced passed. That was better than the movie. As a teen – a cardboard snackbar pizza and a trunkload of friends or steaming up the windows with Cindy.. all like is was yesterday.

mgsurber on August 7, 2015 at 5:50 pm

I was born in the downtown SJ Hospital in 1963. I recall my parents taking me & my sister several times to the Tropicaire Drive-In back in the day. I recall I got to wear my pajamas (those that enclosed the legs are feet). The Tropicaire was located at the intersection of Alum Rock Ave & (what is now) Checkers Drive.

37.35537, -121.84999

We also visited the El Rancho Drive-In. I recall being overwhelmed by the immense depiction of the Cowboy on the bucking Bronco.

jparedes3 on March 27, 2012 at 11:45 am

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

lillokeno on March 24, 2012 at 12:15 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

bbrown1 on March 18, 2012 at 1:55 pm

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

jparedes3 on March 15, 2012 at 8:40 am

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

bbrown1 on March 14, 2012 at 6:57 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 on June 20, 2011 at 11:19 am

Thanks Rivest266! Love the aerial pdf!

trainman on June 19, 2011 at 10:58 am

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

rivest266 on June 19, 2011 at 9:27 am

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

f18shack on June 4, 2011 at 1:31 pm

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

jparedes3 on August 23, 2010 at 8:42 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

comadre on August 22, 2010 at 2:38 pm

I now live in the condo complex and there is a bench where I can enjoy one of the old palm trees. A neighbor told me that this was the same area where the drive-ins snack bar was located. Does anyone have a photo of this spot or a link that I can go to so that I can share it with my grandchildren?

jparedes3 on July 12, 2010 at 3:56 pm

Opened 1950; Demolished 1980s

trainman on July 12, 2010 at 12:52 pm

I remember Ozzie myself, lived in Willow Glen for many years. I remember the play ground. Ozzie I guess was trying to set a record for days and months of sitting on top of the movie screen. I remember the cowboy and horse that was on the back of the screen. We had a Buick road master and I use to sleep in the back window…Wonder what ever happened to Ozzie??? But those were good memories…Does anyone know when the place was built, and demolished…Ty…

telekular on July 9, 2010 at 12:26 pm

I remember the flag pole sitter his name was Ozzie. He did other promotional stunts around San Jose. The one I remember most was for the opening of a housing development possibly Tropicana Village, he was in a plexiglass coffin that was lowered below ground. He breathed through a tube and people were allowed to view him through the clear coffin top. It all went well until someone dropped a lit firecracker down the breathing tube. He immediately had to be dug up although I don’t remember him being hurt. This was the early 1960’s. Years later about 2000 I was recanting this story to a friend named Henry who in his younger years was a self described juvenile delinquent. He admitted to me he was the teenager who dropped the firecracker down the tube. Henry is no longer with us so I pass this story on to you.

jparedes3 on July 1, 2010 at 7:40 pm

My grandmother lived on the ranch next door; the grandchildren used to sit on the trees on pillows to watch the movies; my mom says the screen could be seen from the front porch; my sister and I are searching for pictures of the ranch house and theatre

heatherd on January 5, 2009 at 3:53 pm

Found the following while searching the web on the artist Don Clever. Source: Box Office Magazine, Modern Theatre Section (pp. 153-155), did not give date/issue #. “A new drive-in theatre, the El Rancho, opened this spring to accommodate 800 cars and 240 walk-in patrons… The theatre is owned by Arthur Yarimie and Paul R. Catalana… Thirteen acres have been devoted to the development which cost some $250,000 to build and equip. From the screen tower, 80 feet wide and 65 feet high with a 66-foot picture, to the completely equipped concession building and ramp house, the El Rancho provides every conceivable convenience for its patrons… Valuable highway frontage has been used for a drive-in restaurant while a 32-foot attraction board calls attention to the drive-in theatre entrance… Neon lighted for night attraction, the back of the El Rancho screen tower is dramatically decorated with an appropriate western mural by California artist Don Clever. The theatre was built by the owners with Harold Wood supervising construction. Barnard Nobler was the architect.” Sorry but this is all I could pull up.

View link

kencmcintyre on October 25, 2007 at 10:02 am

This article states that the EL Rancho opened in 1950:

vsj100 on October 25, 2007 at 7:37 am

I was born in 1955 and I remember the pole-sitter from the mid or late 60’s. We went to a SJSU summer school in those days. The commute took us from Almaden to the downtown area passing the drive-in everyday. We noticed the man sitting up there. It seemed like a long time, months perhaps. My mother said that he as setting some kind of record??? The pole remained long after the man was gone and I found myself looking up at the pole everytime I passed by. I was hoping to see another pole-sitter. Quite odd actually.

kkc89447 on January 11, 2006 at 7:22 am

I was born in SJ in 1946 and remember the pole sitter. I’d love to have more details. KKC

bneuroth on October 21, 2005 at 9:05 am

I lived at the condos on this property for years and having lived in San Jose all of my life, I remember the Drive-In as well. It did show only show Spanish Language films during it’s last several years. One bit of trivia: The palm trees at the Condo Complex are the original ones from the Drive In.

Santanaconda on April 27, 2005 at 5:40 pm

In the 1950’s the kiddie area of the El Rancho Drive In was a venue for birthday parties. I remember there was a boat ride with small boats in a tank. The boats revolved around a hub, like a merry-go-round. Mounted high on the top of the structure that held the movie screen was a pole with a small platform. My mom told me they had a pole sitter there at one time, but it was never occupied when I saw it. I think the platform was about 70 feet above the intersection below.

GaryParks on October 16, 2004 at 1:34 pm

In the early Nineties a good friend of mine lived in the condo complex on the site of the El Rancho, and it was from him that I learned about the drive-in having been there. He gloated over the fact that he’d learned something about a San Jose area theatre before I did (and he’s not a theatre buff). There is a small diner or tavern across the street still called the El Rancho.