Hey, it’s my 100th post! For this little milestone I wanted to feature a tiki spot that’s quickly grown dear to my heart: The Mission Tiki Drive-In in Montclair, which is just past Pomona (home of the LA County Fair).
Maybe it’s all the Oldies (courtesy K-Earth 101) I listened to as a kid, but I’ve always been fascinated by classic drive-in movie theatres. (If you hadn’t noticed, I seem to have a thing for fads of the mid-century.) There’s only about two dozen drive-ins still open in all of California. Many were demolished, burned down under suspicious circumstances or are now “dark” and only host weekend swap meets, like the Santa Fe Springs Drive-In I always see along the 5 freeway.
By happy coincidence, one of the closest drive-in movie theaters to Los Angeles is also tiki-themed! The Mission Drive-in has been around since the 1950s, and in 2006 it was refurbished, upgraded for better sight and sound, and given a tiki makeover. The ticket kiosks are thatched huts lit up with glowing fish floats.
Adults are $7 per person and kids are just a buck, so a lot of families come here. Past the entrance on the left there’s a little hillside with a few Easter Island-style moai among the greenery.
The parking spaces are all inclined so that your car tilts upwards, giving you a better angle to look at the screen. Most people tend to sit in the backs of trucks or bring lawn chairs to sit out in the open air, though you’ll have to stay close to your car so you can hear the audio from your radio.
Each screen shows a double feature of one new release and a slightly older movie in a similar genre. For a few years Mission Tiki had partnered with TCM to do a month of classic movies, but apparently that’s no more — here’s hoping they bring that back sometime.
There are four screens, one in each corner, and a snack bar/projector building in the middle that’s decorated with island-themed murals, tiki pillars, and tiki masks, plus a smattering of bamboo and lauhala matting on the inside.
The snack shack serves up your standard fare of popcorn, pretzels, pizza and hamburgers, along with tacos, asada fries and horchata (mmm). Next time I’m going to have to go for the “Tiki Dog,” a.k.a. a bacon-wrapped Danger Dog.
By the counter there’s a little gift shop (cash only!) that’s open before the movies start. It sells signature t-shirts, hats, posters, and multi-colored plastic Ku cups, but the best is their logo tiki mug clutching a bag of popcorn. Tiki Diablo designed it, and I think there’s still a few up for grabs from the edition run of 150.
Mission Tiki Drive-In Movie Theatre
10798 Ramona Ave.
Montclair, CA 91763