Santa Cruz Guerilla Drive-In

Guerilla Drive-In is an outdoor movie theater under the stars that springs up unexpectedly in the fields and industrial wastelands. Beyond showing great free movies year-round and bringing together community, part of our mission is reclaiming public space and transforming our urban environment.

I founded GDI with friends in 2002.  To date:  200 showings,  more than 15 locations, always free.

We’ve organized GDI for over a decade now because we get the pleasures of participating in a gift economy, bringing together a broad community, providing a place to meet unmediated by commerce, and reclaiming dwindling public space.

The Santa Cruz Guerilla Drive-In collective is a loosely-knit group of folks who love movies, are involved in radical change, and are interested in reclaiming public and unused space. To say that Guerilla Drive-In operates on a shoestring budget is an understatement. We’ve gotten by solely on generous donations for several years now.

As much as possible, we try to balance the films we show in the winter or summer series. Looking over a series, we don’t want a dozen films all with protagonists who are white, young, straight, well-heeled males. We don’t want all slow, artsy films nor all frenetic, action films. We look at watchability, quality of a film, gender balance, sexual preference, class, documentary vs. narrative, classic vs. contemporary, age-appeal, and the underlying subversive message.  And some GDI seasons are more ad hoc.

We usually create fliers for each event and post them all over town, at cafes, community spaces, the university, bus stops, farmers market, whole food stores, and other community boards. And since word about Guerilla Drive-In spreads primarily through word-of-mouth, we give handbills to everyone we meet.

We always start off Guerilla Drive-In with shorts and previews followed by a ten minute intermission.  The intermission gives people a chance to mingle, get to know each other, and see old friends. To us, the most important aspect of the drive-in experience is coming together, sitting outside under the stars, and meeting old and new friends.

Part of our mission at GDI is to build community. For some folks this is their first experience with radical and do-it-yourself community. For many folks this is an opportunity to get more connected with other people and events in their community.

Only in America would we think to close public gathering places after dark. In other countries, public spaces are where people spend their evenings, hanging out with friends, flirting, playing, drinking, singing, dancing. A vital nightlife is the sign of a live and thriving community. If we want to maintain a healthy connected community, we are going to have to draw people away from their televisions out of the malls into the night, to public places where people can talk and picnic and dance and look at the stars. If we want to have any public life at all, we are going to have to challenge laws that keep the public out of public spaces.

For years, we’ve provided inspiration for folks creating their own guerilla movie showings with out GDI Do-It-Yourself How-To instructions.  Santa Cruz Guerilla Drive-In inspired an international movement of guerilla showings and resurgence of interest in outdoor movies.