Opened: August 10, 1971
Location: Doherty's Road, Altona
Altona was the last drive-in theatre built from the ground up in Melbourne. Hoyts reasoned that the Westgate Bridge would open the west of Melbourne to the inner bayside suburbs of St Kilda, Port Melbourne, Sth Melbourne etc.
The hoards of inner bayside residents denied access to a drive-in theatre would pour across the bridge and two exits later be at their own drive-in, Altona. Whilst the reasoning was probably accurate, we never found out. The Westgate bridge collapsed during construction in
1970 and the opening was subsequently delayed until 1979, of course by then the drive-ins were already on the slide. To add insult to injury when the bridge did open, the tolls kept drivers off it until the Govenment of the day decided to make crossing free. Alas it was too late
as the decision to close Altona had been made.
In a slightly reduced size from what you see here, this screen is now at field two at Dromana, minus the "Bong on Deer Park - smoke drugs" graffiti!
The premiere film was "Walkabout". It may have been about the hot Australian interior on the screen, but you can bet in the middle of August it was far from hot in the interior of the cars assembled on opening night! Altona was a handsome drive-in with bluestone flecked red brick constructions suiting the surrounding landscape and gardens. A large snack bar building was among the best constructed by Hoyts. The modern projection room was equipped with Philips DP 70 (Norelco AA 11) projectors.
The site was prone to flooding and the hot-night stench of sewage - the two combined on occasion to make any "B" grade horror on the screen seem tame by comparison to the theatre environment.
Altona projection room seen here in the 1970's with Ron the projectionist on shift. Projectors were Philips DP70 with Ashcraft Super Cinex carbon-arc lamphouses. Be careful with the door open Ron! Eric White Photos.
Altona was generally the weakest trader of the Hoyts Melbourne drive-in circuit and first to really dip into the red. A pity, as it was a fine place to see a movie and was better equipped than many in other suburbs that did double the business. Too few patrons actually drove to a drive-in that was more modern or more functionally designed, some travelled for a particular film, but generally most just went to the closest venue.
Careful with your arm in there Ron, it could be hot and 160amps is lurking..........don't put your head in, not even for the photographer!
The photos on this page have caused some debate as to the actual identity of the projectionist pictured. The projectionist in this photo is the former Altona chief, Ken Boudrie threading the Philips DP70 with 70mm film. The projectionist in the smaller photos above is Ron Dunn, not Ken as some maintain! The originals of the photos above, more clearly show that it is indeed Ron. The score so far, Buddy and Eric maintain the photos are of Ron, John and David say it is Ken. When old Hoyts projectionists go at it, they really go at it. You can add your vote by emailing Buddy below. Looks like the debate is over, even Ron's daughter says it's him.
Altona stood more than 10 years after closure with various proposals of caravan parks
and storage facilities never seeing the light of day. An industrial estate was established on the site and roads cut through the ramps. Interestingly, the screen, projection box and snack bar were left standing among the roads and warehouses, it wasn't until the Dromana drive-in bought the screen that the buildings were razed.
All buildings at Altona were in this colour brick and style.
Thanks to Ross King for some information supplied here.