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Santa Maria's Hi-Way Drive-In Theater closing this week

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Posted at 6:39 PM, Jan 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-05 22:48:21-05

The drive-in movie theater in Santa Maria is closing for good by the end of this week.

Wednesday and Thursday nights mark the final times you can check out a movie at the Hi-Way Drive-In Theater.

“To find out yesterday that this is the last week was just devastating,” said Stacy Menusa of Santa Maria. “It was heartbreaking knowing that something I’ve grown up with, that my kids have grown up with, is no longer going to be here.”

Hi-Way Drive-In opened in 1961. Bob and Diane Gran acquired it in 1978.

“It's one of our first loves,” said Bobby Gran Jr., Hi-Way Drive-In Vice President of Operations. “It was my dad's first passion.”

It’s been a staple of the community with many fond memories created over the years.

“I was one of the first girls ever to work at the drive-in, so kind of iconic, but it was fun. We had a good crew,” Menusa said.

It wasn’t uncommon to get a double feature for the price of one.

In 2015, the drive-in had its biggest crowd.

“I think the Minions holds the record at over 600 cars,” Gran said.

In recent years, however, attendance has dwindled with just 118 cars for Spiderman. The family says it’s no longer feasible to operate.

“Sadly, it wasn't something we wanted to do necessarily,” Gran explained.

It’s been for sale on and off a couple of times but has fallen out of escrow.

People’s Self-Help Housing purchased the property and has plans for 49 single-family homes with lots under 6,000 square feet.

The families, all first-time homeowners, will help build their homes.

“They're able to reduce the construction costs a little bit and that is one of the factors that helps this to become affordable to them,” said Kenneth Trigueiro, People’s Self-Help Housing CEO/President.

But the site and the memories of what it was to many, including the legacy of the late Bob Gran, will last a lifetime.

“It was probably when I was about 18 and I was running the drive-in for my dad and my dad came up and gave me a big hug and just said, ‘You're doing a really good job,’” Gran concluded.

The Gran family has another drive-in location in Madera where they’ll be able to use the equipment from the Santa Maria drive-in. We’re told that location is very successful and they do not have plans to close it.