UPDATE: Last week, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin columnist David Allen got a call from the Mission Tiki’s owner. Frank Huttinger, vice president of De Anza Land and Leisure, said the site’s buyer told him, “They’re not going to want to come in here until the third quarter of 2020. So we’re going to continue operating the drive-in and swap meet past the summer of 2020.” So the end is still near, but now patrons will have some warm-weather months to have a last look at this 63-year-old institution.
Well this stinks. The folks who own the popular Mission Tiki Drive-in Theatre of Montclair CA were offered too much money to turn down, so they’ve sold the place. To their credit, they’re keeping the Mission Tiki open through the end of the year to give patrons a chance at one last look at this 63-year-old institution.
As I wrote during my virtual visit in 2017, the Mission Tiki opened as the single-screen Mission Drive-In in 1956, when the city was known as Monte Vista. They replaced the original screen with four new ones in 1975. The name changed to the Mission Tiki in 2006 during major refurbishing, including FM transmitters and Technalight projection system. The parking lot was repaved, the ticket booths were remodeled to look like tiki huts, a Maui statue garden was added, and the concession stand was remodeled to match the tiki theme.
The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin reported the sad news yesterday. The buyer plans a technology-focused business park. City Manager Ed Starr said he was surprised by the sale. “They’ve had lots of interest over the years and they never wanted to sell,” he told the Daily Bulletin.
Now I said it was popular, but Frank Huttinger, vice president of the corporation that owned the Mission Tiki, said that beyond a group of core enthusiasts, attendance was down. “The people who know it really love it,” he said. “We don’t get new customers.”
Huttinger said the last night would be around Christmas, depending on studio-dictated minimum showings. “It’s bittersweet,” he said, “but it was time.”