Drive in

Movie night — Movie-goers at an Alexander Valley Film Society drive-in film screening last summer.

Photo Leigh Wachter

Series kicks of June 6 with screening of “Raiders of the Lost Ark”

Drive-in movie theatres where teenagers relaxed in convertibles and sipped malt shakes may seem like a scene from a bygone era, but with the green light from the county, the Alexander Valley Film Society is launching a summer drive-in movie series at the Cloverdale Citrus Fairgrounds starting June 6, with the screening of “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

While the series does hearken back to that nostalgic era of summer nights at the drive-in, there are some major changes in store to allow for the adherence to county and state health and safety standards in relation to COVID-19.

“We are going to be strictly following the guidelines issued by the county and the state,” said Kathryn Hecht, the executive director for the Alexander Valley Film Society.

Rules for the drive-in are as follows:

  1. Patrons will have to wet-sign waivers for both the Cloverdale Citrus Fair and the Alexander Valley Film Society before entering the fairgrounds.
  2. All participants must stay in their vehicles at all times (except to use the restroom facilities), and the vehicles must remain closed for the duration of the event. Yep, that means no walk-ins, motorcycles, tailgating, truck beds or popped trunks just yet.
  3. Cars may only be at legal occupancy AND occupants of a vehicle must be members of a single household or living unit and shall not change vehicles during the event.
  4. When patrons exit their vehicles to use the restroom facilities, they must wear a mask at all times and adhere to protocols laid out by restroom docents, e.g., one person at a time in the restroom, 6′ apart in lines, etc.
  5. There will be ZERO tolerance for those not complying with the above. Guests who cannot or will not comply will be asked to leave the premises and no refunds will be given.
  6. No alcohol is allowed on the fairgrounds.
  7. Here is the guidance from the state and here is the updated criteria and directions from the county.

“We’ll have to have a zero tolerance policy. We’re assuming everybody wants to be there and to be there they have to play by these new rules,” Hecht said. “That means there will be no open air vehicles. People are only allowed to come in the occupancy allowed in the car, so this is not the opportunity to stuff the car with 30 people and you are only allowed to come with people that are in your family or with those you’ve been sheltering in place with. There is also no switching cars during the event and if anybody does need to leave their car for the restroom facilities they have to wear a mask at all times.”

And while there will be no concessions available, Hecht suggested visiting local eateries for take out or popcorn.

“We are going to suggest to our patrons that they patronize local restaurants and the local movie theatre. We are going to push people to Papa’s Pizza and the Trading Post here in Cloverdale and we are encouraging people to stop by the Clover Theatre and grab some popcorn and soda for the movie,” she said.

Fair gates will open at 8 p.m. and the movie will start at sundown.

Tickets will be $30 per car and upon entering patrons will present their phone to show their ticket. Sponsors for the event include Dahlia & Sage Community Market, Erin Rothfuss & Brian Watanabe and Empire Mini Storage.

“If for any reason we do have tickets available at the door they will go up to $35. We encourage everybody to purchase their tickets online,” Hecht said.

The film society plans on doing several other showings this summer, however, they are still working on what that will look like.

Will drive-ins make a return in other areas of the county?

While Cloverdale will see the return of the drive-in, Healdsburg, Windsor and West County residents said they too would like a drive-in theatre in their area.

When we asked the Healdsburg community on The Healdsburg Tribune Facebook page if they’d be interested in having a local drive-in, almost all of the 58 respondents said “Yes.”

One Healdsburg resident wrote, “I would actually go to the movies if there was a drive-in. I like the privacy of my car, the comfort, I can bring my own snacks, I can fall asleep, I can talk to the screen without disturbing others, I can bring my dog (who doesn't bark). SO many reasons!”

Corazon Healdsburg hosted two drive-in movies in Spanish last summer at the Healdsburg Community Center where they showed “Selena” and “Coco.”

They said they plan on doing two to three additional screenings this summer for free, per county health guidelines. Check back on the Corazon Facebook page at for updates.

The Windsor community also showed enthusiasm for a drive-in. Many said they loved visiting drive-ins as a kid and others said it would be a good option for families with children.

Sebastopol folks also liked the idea. In response to the drive-in query on the Sonoma West Times & News Facebook page, some suggested the old flea market property off of 116 as a site for a drive-in.

We asked Sebastopol Public Works Superintendent, Dante Del Prete, if he had heard of any expressed community interest in a drive-in he said he had not heard of any interest in drive-in movie theatres as directed to the public works department.

Still, at least for now there is one drive-in opinion for film lovers. To get tickets for the June 6 film screening, visit:

“It is going to be very restrictive, but we’ll at least be able to get together,” Hecht said.

A timeline of drive-ins in Sonoma County 

1950 - The Redwood opens on the Redwood Highway near present day Rohnert Park.

1952 - The Village opens near the Montgomery Village shopping center in Santa Rosa.

1960s - The Midway opens near the Sonoma-Marin county line.

1963 - The Star-Vue opens north of the Coddingtown Shopping Center.

1978 - The Star-Vue closes.

1979 -  The Parkway opens in the northern Petaluma area.

1980s - The Midway closes in the early 80s.

1983 - The Village closes.

1984 - The Redwood closes.

1986 - The Parkway closes.


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