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LIGHTS and FILM

Dromana 3 Drive In

Photographs By

Alex Reinders


As the sun starts to set a warm, timeless atmosphere sweeps into Dromana drive In. This has happened night after night since Frank Whitaker opened the drive in on the 21st of December, 1962. By the late 60’s hundreds of drive ins were operating all over Australia at the time when the Automobile was a beacon of freedom and individuality. It wasn’t a tool for getting from A to B as it is now but an enjoyable endeavor. Drive though restaurants and banks, motels and Drive In Theatres were all a part of the automobile experience.

Drive In Theatres ran strong until the 80’s brought the rise of VHS and popularity of local pubs. This shift took a big toll on the humble drive in and Dromana almost closed in ’89 but Franks son Paul stepped in and took over.

‘Dromana 3 Drive In’ bumper stickers are a common sight all over the peninsula. ‘Dromana Twin Drive In’ stickers can sometimes be spotted from when there was only two screens. Paul runs the drive in with the help of his wife Shelley and his two sons.


Screen number 1 was constructed in 1962 by Frank Whitaker. 30 years later in 1992 Frank’s son Paul added a second screen taken carefully from the disused Altona drive in. A third screen was added in 2002 with capacity now totaling almost 500.


Drive in Intermission characters


Stallholder Mick selling his fruit and veg during the monthly Sunday Market


Above: Market day Right: Dan Whitaker at the ticket box


Customers stream in for first session


Customers heading to Shel’s Diner before session starts


Shel’s Diner is modeled after the famous American ‘Mel’s Diner’ with black and white tiles and booths trimmed like the rear seat of a 60’s chevy. The diner is run by Shelley, with pinball machines, a jukebox and a classic menu that all echo the golden era of drive ins.


Dan Whitaker running the diner


Waiting for food orders


Paul organizes films while his son plays Lego on Playstation on screen one. Ted is used for promotional images


Mornington lights up the skyline while a session starts


Family of three


Screen Two


Right: X-Wing Fighter on ticket box


Shelley taking admission for the second show


Posts that once held speakers are retained to help show customers where to park


Flat battery, flooded engine


Since opening there has been a steady stream of teenagers, couples and families attracted by the nostalgia and novelty of seeing a movie in your own car. Every other car has couples tangled together behind fogged windows, Paul jokes that plenty of kids were conceived here under the soft light of the screen. There are only three drive ins left in Victoria and 17 in Australia. That number is declining with the recent shift to expensive digital projects. Sometimes at Dromana, even with all 4 ticket booths open, the queue of cars can stretch down the long driveway and onto the highway. The humble Drive In is far from a relic.


Exiting after the last film


Lights and Film  

A photo essay on the Dromana Drive In

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