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A Central Coast treasure – the Sunset Drive-In

Posted at 9:40 PM, Apr 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-05 01:29:31-04

For nearly three-quarters of a century, local residents and visitors have been lining up at an iconic Central Coast landmark to take in a movie or two.  But instead of making their way inside the theater, they stay right in their cars.

As the sun starts to move lower in the sky, the cars start to line up.  One customer had never been there, “No first time,” but another has a long history of visits.  “It’s fun, it’s comfortable.  You don’t really have to dress up.  You can go in your pajamas if you want.  It’s nostalgic.  it’s one of the dying breeds that we don’t really have any more.”

The Sunset Drive-In first opened in the summer of 1950.  And it’s been in the family ever since.  Current owner Larry Rodkey took over the business in 1985 and much of it remains the same as opening day.

“The screen is 70 years old and that’s the original screen,” says Rodkey.

But some things have changed.  “They added the extensions on the screen in 1956,” said Rodkey.  The additional width was needed to accommodate the wider film being used in Hollywood.

Rodkey didn’t mind the wider screen, but he didn’t like converting to digital in 2012.  “I really hate it.  I was a film lover to start with, so I ran this booth from the early 60s.  I learned how to run the projector.  If something broke, you could fix it pretty easily,” said Rodkey.

And just like it did back in 1950, as the sun slips below the horizon, the main feature gets underway.  On this day it was a new release from Marvel Studios.  And as long as he’s alive, Rodkey says he will be there for his customers.  “I should be retired now, but it’s in my blood so I can’t leave.”