Studio Drive-In

400 Peninsula Avenue,
San Mateo, CA 94401

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Studio Drive-In

In 1949, Lester Park who was a filmmaker had a vision to build Studio Village which would include a drive-in theatre. In 1938, he purchased 10 acres of land which included 14 large buildings and was called the studio tract. It was the location of the old Pacific Studios from the 1930’s. His plans called for the creation of a Studio Village with shops on the north end, the drive-in theatre in the middle and with existing studio buildings to the south. It was to be a reproduction of an Algerian desert village located in a desert oasis. Hollywood producers would be invited to use the facilities while filming productions or parts of productions. At this time Parker was producing his own educational films in his movie studios. After the plans were made public in 1949, the neighborhood residents started a protest and attempted to stall the development. The residents filed a petition with the city commision. They claimed the drive-in theatre would depreciate property values, create traffic hazards, noise and generally be objectionable in a residential area.

Before his drive-in could be built and opened, Lester Park died in December 1952. United California Theatres Inc. (dba Peninsula Avenue Theatres Inc.) bought the property and finally opened the Studio Drive-In on April 9, 1953. It had 500 car capacities with seating for 300 patrons in two glass enclosed rooms off the concession stand. The grand opening was the 1952 western “The Savage” with Charlton Heston, Susan Morrow and Peter Hansen. The second feature was the 1953 musical “The Stars are Singing” with Rosemary Clooney and Anna Maria Alberghetti. In its short life the drive-in faced many challenges to stay open, between the city council, neighbors complaining about noise, special use permits and legal problems. The Studio Drive-In screened its last feature on December 25, 1954. Throughout 1955 and 1956, Peninsula Avenue Theatres Inc. tried to get a new permit to reopen the drive-in but failed. In June 1956, the San Mateo city council disapproved the reopening of the drive-in. The Studio Drive-In was demolished and apartments were built on the site.

Contributed by James Monroe, Randy Studer

Recent comments (view all 1 comments)

MichaelKilgore on October 27, 2023 at 6:33 pm

Motion Picture Herald, April 24, 1954: “C. N. Spivey has taken over the Porterville drive-in, Porterville; the Palo Alto drive-in, Palo Alto, and the Studio drive-in, San Mateo.”

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