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July 12, 2024

Remembering Union City’s Drive-In Movie Theater

For 32 years, the Union City Drive-In, located near Whipple Road and Interstate 880, was a familiar sight. To most Hayward and Tri-City residents it was a landmark and recurring entertainment family destination.

The popular Drive-In was opened originally on March 30, 1966 as a single screen drive-in. The opening program was Candice Bergan in “The Group” and Peter Sellers in “What’s New Pussycat?”

Over the years the Union City Drive-In became a sprawling six-screen venue with a large round snack bar in the middle and a children’s play area onsite. The Drive-In closed March 31, 1998 and was immediately demolished. The event was marked by a farewell gala billed as “The Last Picture Show,” showing classics including the 1957 movie “I was a Teenage Frankenstein.”

The Union Landing shopping and entertainment complex was soon built on the 104-acre former Drive-In property.

The Union City Drive-In was a source of pride for Union City for decades. Its six screens were more than any other nearby theater had and its huge, red and white marquee served as a massive welcome sign to moviegoers and everyone driving by. Over the years the Drive-In offered first-run blockbusters like Scarface, Footloose and Heavy Metal.

The historic outdoor cinema is greatly missed by locals who remember warm summer nights watching movies there, content with their friends or families in their own cars. Teenagers stayed at the Drive-In for hours socializing from dusk to dawn watching horror movies and triple features.

The closure of the Union City Drive- In was the end of an American dream, watching a movie in a car under the stars in Union City. The Union City Drive-In is now just a memory; the gravel lot, movie speakers hanging in car windows, snack bar pizza, and vibrant larger than life technicolor images.


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