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Sun sets on Harbour View drive-in

Published:Sunday | July 25, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Howard Campbell, Gleaner Writer

Harbour View Drive-in, once a showpiece of east St Andrew, is up for sale. Owned by Palace Amusement Company Limited, it has been inactive since September 2004 when Hurricane Ivan caused severe damage to the complex.

Palace's Marketing Manager Melanie Graham told Automotives that the company had decided to call time on the drive-in before the category three Hurricane Ivan struck. Its best days as a drawing card, she said, had long passed.

"At the time there was a lot of violence along Mountain View (which leads to Harbour View) and people were afraid to take a chance driving on the poorly lit roads," Graham said. "After Ivan we didn't see it wise to rebuild because drive-ins were on their way out," she added.

Better times

The last movie shown at the drive-in was on September 9, one day before Ivan touched down.

Before the advent of VCRs (video cassette recorders) and the Cineplex, the Harbour Drive-in was a must-go for movie buffs. In its heyday during the 1970s and 1980s, cars stretched from the Harbour View roundabout to the drive-in's location near the Bull Bay border.

Time, Graham explained, had caught up with what was once considered the jewel in the Palace Amusement crown. Not only did the vehicles stop rolling in, they also proved to be a hindrance to the feature presentation.

"If trucks passed on the outside you could see their image on the screen and if there was a dance nearby it interfered with the sound," she said.

"The movie business is held in a controlled environment now and you just cannot do that with a drive-in."

Harbour View Drive-in opened in 1963, three years after the completion of the Harbour View housing scheme. A rival drive-in, Johnson's, was located along Washington Boulevard.


Drive-ins were hugely popular as hangout spots in the United States during the 1950s. They coincided with the emergence of rock and roll, the Beatniks and acted as unofficial showcases for hot rods.

By the 1980s, however, the projectors and speaker boxes of the drive-in were old hats and they quickly became obsolete. They gave way first to the VCR then to the state-of-the-art Cineplex which catered to family and 'mall rats' alike.

Nostalgia has played a role in drive-ins making a comeback of sorts in Midwestern states in America but Melanie Graham does not see that happening in Jamaica.

"Everything has changed so drastically, especially in terms of equipment.

The drive-in is really a dinosaur now," she said.