Santee Drive-in Theater Officially Reopens

Written by Julianne Foster

San Diegans can begin to get out of their homes and resume entertainment activities as the Santee Drive-In theater reopened last Friday. They are the second drive-in to reopen in San Diego, following the reopening of the South Bay Drive-In. Since movie theaters remain closed due to public health concerns during the pandemic, it’s the perfect time for drive-in theaters to receive the attention they deserve.

The Santee Drive-In was built by Michael Long’s father in 1958, and opened in 1962. Michael Long started out working the snack bar as a 16-year-old and is now the current owner. In its six decades of operation, it has only been closed one other time—due to threats from local fires.

The theater’s forced closure on March 10, was due to the escalating pandemic situation. During the closure, Long said he had spent all week telling county and state public health officials that drive-ins were the perfect opportunity for people to still safely enjoy time outside of the house during the pandemic since movie theaters were not a viable option.

“It was part of the governor’s either late phase one or early phase two edicts that got passed along [that said] drive-ins and drive-in events are okay to do,” said Long. They were given the okay to re-open on May 13 and quickly began cleaning and preparing for the resumption of operations that following Friday.

He assured that visitors can “bring your own safe space” in their car to enjoy movies outside of their homes. The drive-in will be filled at 50% capacity with cars parked in every other spot to maintain 10 feet distance to ensure visitor’s safety. The snack bar will be closed, but the restrooms remain open and they urge everyone to diligently wash their hands after use.

They ask visitors to stay inside their vehicles to view the movie, but when they need to get out they must wear a mask and practice social distancing. The only point of contact they must have is at the box-office, with each employee wearing a mask and gloves. Visito’s need only to pay and receive change through a cracked window, since the drive-in doesn’t accept credit cards. 

The drive-in’s movie schedule is posted on their website. They will be playing two movies per screen Sunday through Saturday at 8:30 p.m. and 10:15 p.m.


Photo by slworking2 via Flickr