West Wind Theater blows competition out of the water
The Santa Clara
April 25, 2019
In the church of cinema, the drive-in moviegoing experience can only be described as heretic.
A largely dead enterprise, drive-ins are messy and uncontrollable: people heckle, lights flash and sound (especially from nearby highways) carries. It’s the antithesis of the precise and tightly wound concoctions great movies aspire to.
But, in 2019—where everyone has watched at least some part of a great film on their walletsized phone—drive-ins have become one of the last vestiges of the sweeping American cinema that dazed the nation in the 20th century.
And of the limited options, West Wind Capitol Drive-In stands proud as the perfect embodiment of a modern drive-in movie theater, a defiant temple in an age of apostasy.
At West Wind Capitol DriveIn, you see the screens—jutting up from the horizon like vast, silvery monoliths—before you even reach the outskirts of the property.
Unlike AMC-style multiplexes where concession stands and gaudy bars assume center stage— drive-ins understand that, at the movies, the films are the main attraction.
Once inside, you can have your pick of parking spot, and since you control the seating arrangements, you don’t need to worry about contracting lice or some other fabric-infested disease from the perpetually filthy theater chairs.
At drive-ins, you’re behind the wheel and you’re in control.
While daylight exposes the piles of trash swirling just outside the screening lots, (which admittedly look like sets straight out of “Mad Max,” only messier), and the projectionists replace the waning beams of sunlight with the fired-up, digital magic of the movies, West Wind Capitol fully comes alive.
In the circular building occupying the center of the establishment, concession stands rattle to life to serve anything from heaps of classic, buttery movie popcorn to steaming nachos and even coffee.
With the imposing rectangles of the massive screens dominating the background, as you walk from your car to pick up your popcorn and Pepsi, kids dart past and late cars shuffle into position before the opening titles. Especially on Friday and Saturday nights, these drive-ins hum with life.
In fact, the bevy of people and personalities adds to the experience. As the movie begins to play, groups of kids play pickup football in between the rows of cars.
Families hold impromptu cookouts complete with camping-style lawn chairs, couples canoodle in the beds of pickup trucks, and loners tint their car windows with foggy smoke.
Regardless of how these guests use drive-ins, they all visit West Wind to—in some respect—partake in the collective cinematic experience movies offer.
The screens are so prominent and massive that even those uninterested in plot can find themselves engrossed by the gigantic projections.
Perhaps the best feature of a drive-in is its double feature offerings—an American moviegoing tradition largely abandoned by indoor theaters. In an area where even the most basic, no-frills movie ticket can go for $12. For a straight $16, you can see, for example, “The Curse of La Llorona” and “Pet Sematary” back-to-back.
Even when the movies fail to keep the audience’s interest— which happens rather frequently in the drab and on-the-nose “Pet Sematary”—drive-ins allow guests greater flexibility. If you want to critique the movie from the privacy of your vehicle, you can.
If you want to refill your popcorn, you can (without disturbing any people between you and the exit).
Although filmmakers lose artistic control to the elements when their films are projected at drive-ins, the audience gains more control over their viewing habits.
Sure, West Wind Capitol Drive-In could improve in the cleanliness department, but if you bring a couple friends to a late-night double feature, you won’t be able to see the garbage.
Instead, you can bask in the glory of the cinema and the life unfolding below the projection booth, taking movies out of the cloistered sterility of the screening room and transplanting them directly into everyday lives. American cinematic culture lives on at the drive-ins.
Contact Brandon Schultz at email@example.com or call (408) 554-4852.