The Mesa Drive-In was opened in 1951 as a single screen ozoner and, according to Cinema Treasures, two more screens were added in celebration of the theater’s 50th anniversary. All three screens are of average size and appear well-maintained. We caught a double bill of IRON MAN 2 and SHUTTER ISLAND on screen 1 back in May and found the experience satisfying overall.
The box-office opened at 7:30 that evening and the best spots filled quickly, so if you plan to attend a show at the Mesa, especially on a weekend, it’s recommended that you arrive early. We did, nailing a front row center space, and with over an hour to go before sundown had plenty of time to make a few phone calls while folks in the vehicles around us set up lawn chairs and sprayed themselves with insect repellent, kids gathered under the screen to play Frisbee or just hang out, and a nearby car radio blared a head-scratching mix of music ranging from Thin Lizzy, AC/DC and Rainbow to early ‘80s R&B hits like Mtume’s “Juicy Fruit” and Lakeside’s “Fantastic Voyage.”
The concession stand is reasonably priced and the staff friendly and helpful; two different employees, a male and a female in their late teens/early 20s, apologized for keeping us waiting when a problem arose with the soda machine, but the delay was negligible. A typically filling dinner at a Cracker Barrel a few miles away had eliminated our need for food, but we ordered a large Diet Coke to keep us awake during IRON MAN 2 and went back for a pretty good soft ice cream cone at the intermission. We’re happy to report that there were no green meatball sightings.
We walked the grounds twice during the course of the night, once before the first feature and again during the intermission. The men’s room is large and seemed to be clean during both of our visits, and we assume the same can be said for the women’s room (There was no line to get inside anyway). The theater boasts a 1000 car capacity and is certainly family friendly. Kids of all ages were everywhere, with teenagers roaming in packs, but everyone was well-behaved and security guards were plentiful. At the start of SHUTTER ISLAND, a few boys in their early teens camped out in lawn chairs next to our car and asked if we could keep the windows open so they could hear the movie. We obliged, and at two in the morning when the movie ended they thanked us. [Whatever happened to teen-age independence? We remember sneaking into the DeWitt Drive-In on ten-speed bikes with our Walkman headsets for a double bill of HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY and HORROR PLANET and there was no interaction with adults whatsoever].
In fact, everyone was so friendly that we feel like jerks for having to point out their ignorance of proper drive-in etiquette -- but there it is, and we place the blame squarely on the shoulders of the management for not telling the residents of Pueblo to turn off their goddamn headlights when entering or leaving the theater. If it had only happened two or three times during the course of the double bill we would’ve overlooked the faux pas (along with the occasional stereo interference during the first feature) and awarded the Mesa Drive-In an A+ rating, but every two or three minutes some affable know-nothing was lighting up the screen. Memo to the manager: You have a potentially great theater. Put up a sign and tell the patrons to turn off their headlights. They seem like really nice people. They’ll listen to you. :)
For more photos of the Mesa Drive-In, check THESE out.