Anyone who used to drive on the Nimitz Freeway (I-880, but formerly Highway 17) through Union City will know the Union City Drive-In Theater well. Its big screens stood out next to the freeway between Whipple and Alvarado-Niles off-ramps. Whether it was the lighted marquee or the short glimpses of the 6 movie screens, the Theater made an impression on all who drove past.
The Drive-In Theater is gone now. Bulldozed over and replaced by a 25-screen indoor theater and shopping complex. Before the Drive-In Theater was torn down, it was the last active drive-in theater in Alameda County.
Originally built in 1966, the Drive-In Theater was torn down on 1 April 1998, a day after showing its last movie. Three weeks before it closed, "The Last Picture Show" closing event was hosted. The theme for the evening was the 50's, mimicing the heydays of drive-in theaters. Local classic car clubs brought their cars to set the mood. The films for the evening were: "I Was a Teenage Frankenstein" from 1957, "Rio Bravo" with John Wayne and Dean Martin, "Go Johnny Go" with Richie Valens, and "Invasion of the Saucer Men" a B movie from 1959.
During the 70's, the Union City Drive-In Theater was one of 11 drive-ins in the Bay Area. Now only 4 remain, one each in San Jose, Burlingame, Concord, and Daly City. Despite the demise of drive-ins throughtout the U.S., they are popular, daid Century Theaters spokesperson, Nancy Klasky. "Nine of the company's 70 locations nationwide are drive-ins", said Klasky," and they are all profitable -- including the Union City Drive-In." It was not profitability that sealed the Union City Drive-In's fate, it was the price of land. Centry Theatures feels that a indoor cinema will serve area residents better than the Drive-In.
The Union City Drive-In Theater is not totally gone. Some parts of the theater have been saved and will be donated to the Union City Historical Museum once it has a Museum location.