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The End of a Love Affair : The Last Picture Has Been Shown at Culver City's Studio Drive-In

January 10, 1991|PATRICIA WARD BIEDERMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A fictive letter about a real event. Best read to the tune of "Eddie, My Love."

Dear Eddie:

I hate to be the one to tell you, but they closed the Studio Drive-In.

It's terrible, I know, but what can you expect in a country that took the fins off cars?

Sunday was the last day, and now, every time I drive past that big, beautiful screen in Culver City I could just cry.

Did you know that drive-in was almost as old as we are?

It was built in 1948. I used to go there with my mom and dad and my little brother. I hated going to the drive-in then, even though my dad said it was the only way we could all afford to go to the movies and that if I pinched my brother one more time, there would be no more trips to the snack bar.

Wearing your pajamas to the movies was cool. But when you're a little kid and you're at the drive-in, the people in the seat in front of you are always taller than you are.

Do you remember the first time we went to the Studio? It was April, 1958--Tammy had just given you back your I.D. bracelet and your letter sweater. I read somewhere that 1958 was the biggest year in the entire history of the drive-in (the first one opened in New Jersey in 1933), and that year there were more than 4,000 drive-ins in the country. Now there are only 1,000 left. They're the California condors of entertainment venues.

Did you ever notice that we always double-dated when we went to a walk-in movie but never when we went to the Studio?

Remember how you would roll down the window and hang that squawky speaker on it (now the sound comes through the car radio)? I liked those jungle sounds way better than "Put Your Head on My Shoulder." Do you remember the time we went to see "A Summer Place" and you said the panty girdle was the devil's invention? Did I ever say anything in the drive-in except "Please don't"?

The Culver City Redevelopment Agency controls the Studio site at Sepulveda and Jefferson boulevards. The agency has been negotiating with D & S Corp. and its partner, Ring Financial--they want to build a 190-unit housing complex there. But it's not a done deal yet. Pacific Theatres (they have 44 drive-in screens in Ventura, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, including the Studio) want to reopen the theater in April and keep it going at least through August.

The Redevelopment Agency is going to consider the request at its Jan. 21 meeting.

But for now the Studio is as dead as Elvis.

The Centinela is the only drive-in left on the Westside.

Eddie, I am just too broken up to write anymore. I'm gonna put "Unchained Melody" on the tape deck, pour myself a glass of white wine and try really hard to do what my shrink said and live in the now.

Love ya,

Pepper.

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