Mission Tiki drive-in theater in Montclair threatened by warehouse development

The plans for the property show two large warehouses on the north side and six smaller complexes on the south portion.
MONTCLAIR, Calif. (KABC) -- The drive-in movie theater has been part of Americana for decades, but these once-popular hangout spots are disappearing.

The latest one under threat is the Mission Tiki in Montclair.

"It's wrong to look at this place and go, 'OK let's tear it down and put warehouses' when there is a dirt lot right down the street. It angered me and none of the city councils in the Inland Empire are listening," said Robert Wilkiewicz.

Wilkiewicz started an online petition at Change.org - gathering close to 2,000 signatures in an effort to save the outdoor theater from being developed into an industrial park.

The plans for the property show two large warehouses on the north side and six smaller complexes on the south portion.

"People come to see places like the drive-in, they don't come to visit warehouses. This is a place that brings the community together," said Wilkiewicz.

He is calling on the city to come up with a creative plan for the 27.74-acre property.

"You could have car club weddings here. How cool would that be? You could have outdoor Comic-Con events, show stuff on the screens. You could use the back of the billboards for advertising. Where is the creativity?" he said.

But the city doesn't own the property. Mission Boulevard Industrial Owner, L.P. is developing the site.

Montclair's community development director Michael Diaz told Eyewitness News the city's role will be considering the environmental impact report, zoning and design plans for the property.

For now, the drive-in continues to operate as a swap meet and a place where families can come watch a movie under the stars.

"COVID is a big reason why we don't go to movie theaters and big gatherings anymore. This is a way to get out as a family and watch a movie together," said T.J. Moya of Fontana.

Moya says he has been coming to the theater since he was a kid and was saddened to learn the drive-in's days were coming to an end.

"I can understand that property values have skyrocketed. I can see why they are going to do that, but it is a very big downer. This is a great place to come watch a flick."

In April, the city will begin public hearings on the Mission Boulevard and Ramona Avenue Business Park project. It's where Wilkiewicz hopes to convince the property owner and city leaders to save the Mission Tiki drive-in.

"It's been here forever. It is part of our local history, it's part of California history, it's part of cinematic history, it's part of American history," said Wilkiewicz.

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