Apr. 29: Redwood Drive-in Theatre, West Valley City UT

It’s Day 119 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. It only took about a half hour to drive back from the Motor Vu Drive In in Erda UT to the Redwood Drive-in Theatre in West Valley City, a suburb of Salt Lake City.

According to its web site, the Redwood opened in 1948 as a single-screen drive-in and “was an immediate success, drawing movie fans from all over the Salt Lake area.” (No wonder; the grand opening ad promised “Magic Moonglow Illumination.”) Later, the Redwood added screens here and there, totaling four by 1979 and eventually reaching six by 1990. Then it trimmed a couple over the years, dropping down to today’s four active screens. The satellite photos show all six screens still standing, so I’m not sure why the Redwood cut back.

According to a 1990 article in the Deseret News, the Redwood was being run by the DeAnza Land and Leisure Co. “The company formerly owned as many as four drive-ins throughout the valley. As they were forced to close those locations due to economic concerns, they recycled the equipment and expanded the Redwood location.” Maybe one of those transplanted screens is shown on the most famous drive-in photo ever? (See below.)

The good news was that I had a chance to see a movie at a drive-in for the first time in a little while. The bad news was that despite the Redwood’s four screens, there was only one early show that I hadn’t seen, and that was the latest Smurfs installment. Further, it was only about 50 degrees at movie time, so I was sure glad I brought a jacket.

Miles Today / Total:  28 / 13121 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: Smurfs: The Lost Village / 54

Nearby Restaurant: It’s just a hole in the wall of a strip mall, but Thai This delivered some tasty Thai cuisine. I started with a spring roll with peanut sauce and finished with some Gai Yang marinated chicken. I had to pass a lot of chain restaurants to get here, but it was worth the drive.

Where I Virtually Stayed: One of the benefits of being close to a big city is finding funky new hotels such as the Home2 Suites by Hilton just four miles from the Redwood. The lobby fireplace felt especially nice on a cool Saturday night, and my room was clean, had a kitchenette, and its blinds were automatic. The morning breakfast was included too. This place was even nicer than some of the Hampton Inns I’ve visited.

Charlton Heston as Moses in The Ten Commandments, drive-in theater, Utah, 1958.

photo by J.R. Eyerman — Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

Only in West Valley City: West Valley City is just southwest of Salt Lake City, where the most famous drive-in photo was taken. In 1958, Charlton Heston parted the Red Sea while a full lot of cars watched in an iconic photo by J.R. Eyerman, published in Life magazine. As I figured out several years ago, that photo was sort of a fake – the Ten Commandments still was superimposed on Eyerman’s photo, which was of the Brigitte Bardot film And God Created Woman. But I never did figure out which now-closed drive-in hosted that photo.

Next stop: Motor Vu Drive-In Theatre, Riverdale UT.