Bob Golding was reluctantly planning to shut down the Marysville Drive-in Theater at the end of October. Were it his choice, the gates would have remained open indefinitely to the moviegoers who came from as far south as Sacramento and as far north as Chico to enjoy the rare piece of Americana. However, with the ever-rising value of land in the Yuba-Sutter area, the owners of the property, which is located on Erle Road off Highway 70, wished to sell.
Golding, who leased the land, was not happy about the drive-in closing. “It hurts (to have to close),” said Golding in an interview with The Prospector in early September. “I’ve been here every day since ’78 except for a three-month period.”
The news of one tragedy was followed quickly by the news of yet another. As Golding came to terms with losing his business, suddenly he lost his life.
As the result of a tragic tractor accident, Golding died on Tuesday, September 13. His son, Kevin Golding, at the age of 19, is now left with the legacy of the Marysville Drive-in and the task of keeping the doors open in memory of his father.
“This was his life,” said Kevin. “Keeping (the drive-in) open is in a way keeping his spirit alive.”
Golding had leased the property for 26 years and said that he loved every minute of it. A memorial for Golding was held Thursday, September 22, at the Marysville Drive-in and was open to the public.
American drive-in movie theatres got their start June 6, 1933, by a man named Richard M. Hollingshead in Camden, New Jersey. They did not hit their boom until the end of the 40’s, when in 1948 the country had 820 drive-ins scattered across the states.
The 50’s were the golden age of the Drive-in theatre. Not only were they increasing in numbers but in size as well. One of the largest drive-in theaters was the All-Weather Drive-In, located in Copiague, New York.
It had parking spaces for 2,500 cars. It also had an indoor 1,200 seat viewing area with heat and air-conditioning, a playground, a cafeteria and a restaurant with full dinners. A shuttle train took customers from their cars to the various areas, on the huge 28 acres that made up the property.
In the 60’s and 70’s, people lost interest in the drive-in experience. Many of the movies targeted the teen and adult audience, which caused fewer families to attend. Then in the eighties with cable TV and the VCR, Drive-ins were on the brink of extinction. From 1986 to 1990, number of drive-ins in America dropped from 2,700 to fewer than a thousand.
The Marysville Drive-in got its start in 1966 as the “Sierra Drive-in.” Lippert Theatres owned it until 1986, the year it was four feet under water during the infamous 1986 flood
Ten weeks and $42,000 later it was up and running again. The somewhat ironic part about its history is that if the Marysville Drive-in had opened ten years earlier, next year it would have been eligible to be considered an historical landmark. However, fifty years is the cut off point.
In early September, Golding said in an interview, “It’s been 26 great years, and I was glad to be a part of it that long.”
In July of this year, according to the United Drive-in Theaters Association, there were only 402 drive-ins still in operation across the country. Local residents who wish to attend a drive-in after the Marysville theatre closes will have to drive to either Lakeport or Crescent City. Those are the closest cities with drive-in theatres still in operation.
Although the date to vacate the land was set for October 30, Golding had hoped that he could keep the drive-in open as long as possible. He wanted to keep it open through
November, close in December, and if the weather were cooperative and the movies good, then he would have opened it back up in January.
The reason he set the closing date for the end of October is that his insurance would run out at that time. The drive-in property does not actually go through escrow until March 2006.
But now, with the recent tragedy of Golding’s death, it is unknown how long the drive-in will stay open.