Santa Barbara Drive-In Abruptly Closes

Colorful tractor-train carries kids through the parking lot

Free Movie Night festivities, from the Santa Barbara Drive-In Facebook page

Some drive-in closures tease out slowly, like the Cascade in West Chicago. Most are like a phone that stops ringing; you only know for sure when it doesn’t reopen the following spring. The Santa Barbara Drive-In in Goleta CA just gave us a rare form of sadness – the closure that’s a bolt from the blue.

As first reported in the Santa Barbara Independent, the drive-in announced on its Facebook page Friday, “Thank you for supporting the Santa Barbara Drive-In for the past nine years. We are now closed.”

This was a West Wind drive-in, one of several owned by Syufy Enterprises, and the announcement came just hours after it held its Free Movie Night, an annual company-wide tradition that primes the pump for summer viewing season. The Independent said that it couldn’t reach Syufy for comment on its sudden action. Indeed, as I type three days later, the Santa Barbara is still included on the West Wind web site.

When I stopped by for a virtual visit two years ago, I pointed out that the site doesn’t offer many other options. The Santa Barbara Airport immediately to the west probably prevents anything too tall from replacing the drive-in, and creeks to the east and west prevent encroachment from anything else.

I have no info yet on this event, but my interactions with Syufy have always shown it to be a class organization. I remember that years ago it regretted having to close a different drive-in because it couldn’t renew the lease with the landowner, and I can’t imagine any other reason for it to fold. I’ll update this post when I hear more.