Special screenings help West Wind Drive-In celebrate 50-year anniversary

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A painted sign on the Concessions' exterior, photo by Madeline Derivet.

West Wind Las Vegas Drive-In gave visitors a blast from the past when it featured a one-night-only presentation of “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.” 

The cult classic first hit silver screens back in 1982, 10 years after the theater opened. Now, 40 years later, moviegoers were immersed in an evening reminiscent of the first time the film played at West Wind.

West Wind is the only drive-in movie theater in Las Vegas, and is one of only two in the entire state. On Jan. 7, 2022, the theater celebrated its 50-year anniversary alongside its devoted fanbase. 

UNLV student, Jill Mendoza, is a member of the fanbase. While she did not attend the January anniversary, she was present for the Sept. 24 showing of “E.T.” 

“The movie brings back so many memories of my childhood,” Mendoza said. “It just has a good message; the moral is all about acceptance. ‘E.T.’ was way ahead of its time.”

Even though Mendoza is not quite old enough to have experienced the movie’s debut at West Wind, the nostalgia of the drive-in itself is what keeps her coming back. To her, the drive-in represents a feeling of sentimentality that can only be felt by watching a box office movie from a car.

Entrance of West Wind Drive-In, photo by Madeline Derivet.

“When you make a thing out of [going to West Wind] by stopping at the concessions, it beats out a typical theater setting,” Mendoza said. “But the convenience aspect is really what sets it apart from others. Being in the car just lets you kick back in a different way than a normal theater does. Plus, you can talk during the movie without getting shushed by the people around you.” 

Saturday’s special screening was at the tail end of the summer season, a time that manager Comesha Starnes said West Wind varies in business. When temperatures are high, people are less apt to sit through a movie in their car, according to Starnes. But with kids also being out of school during the summer months, West Wind is able to keep busy.

The later months of the year are when attendance is at its peak, although this is incomparable to what business was at in the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Starnes. 

“When everything opened up again, things here slowed down,” Starnes said. 

West Wind offers special screenings once per month. Moreover, the theater hosts free movie nights and $3 movie nights, which attracts guests from all over the city.

“We don’t find out what movie [the special screening is] until the Monday before,” Starnes said. 

Upcoming features are promoted on West Wind’s website, as well as on the theater’s Instagram page. Customers can also find out about showtimes, future events and more on their website.

As for the coming years, Starnes is confident that West Wind will continue to be a lasting staple to Las Vegas. A digital streaming platform is currently in the works, with a rollout expected soon. West Wind is open seven days a week, and movies usually begin around 7 p.m.

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