05 June 2021

Redwood Drive-in and Swap Meet

Aerial view Redwood Drive-In, 1970s, from Salt Lake County Archives.

You may have heard by now that the Redwood Drive-in was proposed for rezone and demolition but last night the developer withdrew the application from West Valley City. 

The protest rally planned for Sunday is now a support rally for the swap meet. Head over to @slcsanchez801 for details.

The Redwood Drive-in opened for business Friday July 22, 1949, with the technicolor picture “The Big Cat” which was filmed at Hoosier Lake in Iron County, Utah.

The land for the theater was purchased from Leon C. Breeze who operated a chicken farm; the Breeze house is still standing at 3740 S. Redwood Road and is used for storage by the current Redwood Drive-in owners.

The original Redwood Drive-In in featured a single 40x60 foot screen with a 600-car capacity. The theater also had several family friendly activity areas including picnic tables, BBQ pits, a wading pool, swings and playground, and offered pony rides for children and bottle warmers for babies.

Outdoor seating was provided for those who did not wish to watch the movie in their car. For those in their cars there were individual speakers and a push button for refreshment service.

The theater experienced several fires and incidents over the years:
  1. A homemade bomb made from a garden hose and dynamite exploded in the men’s restroom in 1953
  2. Arson at the ticket booth by a juvenile crime gang of tweens and young teenagers in 1953
  3. A suicide in a car by carbon monoxide poisoning in 1955
  4. A man who purchased a ticket and then came back to the booth to rob the attendant of $46 in 1958
  5. A fire caused by a short in a neon sign burned down the large screen in 1966
  6. An overheated furnace started a fire in the projection booth in 1971
  7. Salt Lake County Firefighters intentionally burned the old snack bar located in the center of the parking area for a training exercise in April 1978, with the permission of the owner.
  8. A field fire burned one of the screens in 1994
The swap meet started at Redwood Drive-In in 1960 after failing to gain traction at a different drive-in theater. It has been a mainstay for weekend buyers/sellers/swappers nearly continuously since. In 1978 it was reported that 10,000 visitors attended the swap meet each Sunday.

Sources: Des News 1949-07-21, Des News 1953-05-01, Des News 1953-10-01, Des News 1966-11-29, Des News 1971-03-11, SL Trib 1978-04-08, SL Trib 1978-08-17, SL Trib 1994-09-18

Poster of the debut movie "The Big Cat" at Redwood Drive-In

One of the many fires, 1966. From UDSH.

The Snack Bar, a year before it was burned by Salt Lake County
Firefighters in 1977, from Salt Lake County Archives.

 Debut Swap Meet advertisement From SL Trib 1960-04-17

Newspaper page from Salt Lake Tribune 1978-08-17

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