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LAist Recommends: Pacific Vineland Drive-In

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Starting tomorrow, lots of folks are going to be rushing area theaters to check out the latest Quentin Tarantino+Robert Rodriguez splatterfest, Grindhouse. And yes, Los Angeles has definitely gone grindhouse crazy in general. But before running off to The Grove, consider a truly authentic alternative. We think the best way to see the Tarantino/Rodriguez homage to 1970s and 1980s schlock cinema is by heading to an equally entertaining relic of a bygone era; the drive-in movie theater.

One of the most enduring images of Southern California from the 1950s through the 1970s was the drive-in movie, and the state boasted more than 200 outdoor screens by the late 1960s. If LAist thinks hard enough, we can remember our first drive-in experience. We were eight years old, sitting in the back seat of a car driven by our older sister and her boyfriend, watching a double-feature of Van Nuys Blvd. and The Road Warrior. We laughed out loud when, in the latter flick, the Chaka-looking kid’s razor boomerang cut that guy’s fingers off.

It’s still possible to take kids to totally inappropriate movies in the comfort of your car. Though only a handful of operating drive-ins exist in the Southland today, the nearest one also happens to be one of the most authentic you'll ever visit. In City of Industry, of all places, sits the Pacific Vineland Drive-In.

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How great is this place? For starters, most of the films shown are double features. It plays only first-run films, instead of being a clearing house for movies about to head to DVD. It's only seven bucks per person, and kids 11 and under pay nothing. And finally, even though there are ample concessions (and an arcade) on the grounds, guests are welcome to bring their own food and libations. Kind of like a ghetto Hollywood Bowl. And did we mention that train tracks run behind the screens?

First-timers should be aware of some drive-in etiquette. There's no more hooking that grainy radio to your car window, like in the old days. Audio is now pumped through your car stereo, in wonderful Dolby surround. However, that means the audio quality of your movie experience will vary depending on how much you've invested in said stereo. If you've had a recent visit to your house by Pimp My Ride's Xzibit, you'll be in heaven. But even if your Pinto only has a stock radio, it's still better than the grainy window radios of old. Just turn that bitch up.

Another important component of the Vineland drive-in experience is that people tend to not stay in their cars. Roofs, truck beds and hoods all make good viewing surfaces, and many guests bring along lawn furniture, giving the Vineland an atmosphere reminiscent of football tailgating, but in the dark. Of course, those looking for intimacy can simply roll up their windows and enjoy movies in almost complete privacy.

The Vineland is open year-round and typically has about seven films running on its four screens on any given night, including at least a couple of family-friendly pics. We don't recommend bringing kids to the screening of Grindhouse, but we'd be surprised if we don't see at least a few darting between between cars during the show.

Photo by cdozo via Flickr.