Santa Maria Says Farewell to the Hi-Way Drive-In


Kelsie Barba, Writer

Earlier this month, on January 7th, the iconic Santa Maria drive-in theater, the Hi-Way Drive-In, closed it’s gates for the last time and shut down permanently. Since then, many Santa Maria residents have expressed their disappointment and gratitude for the drive-in theater, which has had a significant impact on Santa Maria’s community.

The Hi-Way Drive-In was originally founded in 1961, then later purchased by the Gran family in 1978. Since then, the Gran family has operated the drive-in for 43 years. Talks of the drive-in being sold and shutting down had been circulating for a few years now, but the decision for closure had not been officially announced until late last year. The property for the drive-in had been on and off the market for the past few years as well, but was finally sold to the nonprofit organization People’s Self-Help Housing Inc.


The 8.9 acre property of the Hi-Way Drive-In will be used to house 49 residential units for single and low income families. The Gran family states that they have done everything in their power to keep the business up and running, but with online streaming and the 2 popular Regal owned theaters in town racking up a large majority of business, the drive-in simply wasn’t able to compete any longer.

The Gran family’s final message to the Santa Maria community states the following:


This may be a huge loss for Santa Maria’s community, but it does not mean the end of Central Coast drive-in theaters. If you still want to have the experience of a drive-in theater, the nearest one is located just 30 minutes away, in San Luis Obispo. The Sunset Drive-In can be found just before the Madonna Inn on the right side of Highway 101 heading northbound (255 Elks Ln). The Sunset Drive-In is similar to the Hi-Way Drive-In, except slightly smaller in terms of size.

You can help support the Gran family by visiting their other family owned drive-in theater, the Madera 2 Drive-In, which is located near Fresno in Madera (201 West Lincoln Ave). The Gran family also owns movie theaters in Lompoc (220 W Barton Ave), Imperial (2335 Highway 86), and Madera (1140 North Gateway).

The Hi-Way Drive-In will be a piece of nostalgia that the community of Santa Maria will never be able to forget.