Alvarado Drive-In

7910 El Cajon Boulevard,
La Mesa, CA 91942

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Johnprovince on August 8, 2023 at 1:03 pm

The neon Drum Majorette can still be seen at the College Grove Shopping Center in San Diego. It was stored after the Alvarado’s demise and reinstalled when College Grove was completely raized and rebuilt as “The Grove” in the 1990’s.

MichaelKilgore on August 26, 2021 at 12:45 pm

More date clues: A 1953 aerial photo of the site showed an empty field, photos from 1964 and 1978 showed the Alvarado intact, and a 1980 photo showed it already replaced.

rokcomx on May 31, 2020 at 6:31 pm

The Alvarado Drive-In was located in San Diego’s La Mesa neighborhood, near Interstate 8 and west of Baltimore Drive, on El Cajon Boulevard just before it dumps onto the highway. Within walking distance of the nearby Campus Drive-In with its famed marching Indian majorette marquee, the more plain and less attended Alvarado’s first appearance in the annual Theatre Guide books is 1961, listed as being operated by Lanford & Long, with a car capacity of 900.

An article on the San Diego Reader website about local drive-ins has a comment from Leonard Pellman: “The Alvarado Drive-In was built in the early to mid-1950s. I lived at the Miles Motel, 7930 El Cajon Boulevard, from 1953 to 1957. The theatre entrance was on El Cajon Boulevard and they had to get an easement from the motel owners. In exchange for that easement, the Alvarado allowed the motel to construct a private viewing booth at the property line with two speakers in it. I clearly remember watching movies from that booth for the last couple years we lived at the motel, so it must have been built by 1955 or 1956 at the latest.”

Members and supporters of the Motion Picture Projectionist Local 297 picketed the Alvarado lot in the 60s because non-union help was said to be running the booth equipment. Owners eventually agreed to switch to union projectionists. In 1968, the theater began admitting kids under 12 free, boosting attendance. By July 1969, operators had formed Alvarado Drive-In Theatre Inc. The business was purchased in January 1972 by Syufy Century Theatres Inc. of San Francisco, which ran several other indoor and outdoor California screens.

Within a few years, the Mann Theatres chain came to run this drive-in. This was a huge boon in 1973, when this ozone hosted the local debut of Disney’s re-release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (ad uploaded to photo section). The Mann connection proved even more valuable in 1975, when the Alvarado was one of the few San Diego drive-ins to debut the film Jaws during its opening weeks, along with Mann’s Fashion Valley 4 cinemas. In the late ‘70s, daytime Sunday church services were being held on the lot. The Alvarado appears to have closed around 1980, to be replaced by a Best market, Burlington Coat Factory, a Godfather’s Pizza, Trader Joe’s, an El Torito, and other strip-mall shops.