COOBER PEDY News & Events


Coober Pedy Outback Cineman Committee - Kevin Woon, Tina Boyd and Steve Staines

On Friday 22nd October, Steve Staines, Chairperson of the Outback Open Air Cinema travelled to Roxby Downs for the Advantage SA Regional Awards. The Outback Open Air Cinema won the Community Group category sponsored by Elders.

“It was a great surprise to receive the award as we were up against some stiff competition,” said Steve Staines.

“Although the Drive-In won the award it is really a collective award for all the volunteers, patrons and other organisations that that have supported our operation over the years in various ways,” Steve said . These organisations include the District Council of Coober Pedy, Aboriginal Family Support Services, the Coober Pedy Saints Football Club, Department of Families and Communities, Umoona Community Council and Umoona Tjutagku Health Service.

Pictured on "Drive-In" night are the many volunteers who participate in the fortnightly movie viewing in Coober Pedy

The Outback Open Air Cinema would not be operating without the incredible commitment of many volunteers but especially Glenn and Tina Boyd who do the projection work including maintaining the 50 year old projectors. Also thanks to Kevin Woon who does the bookwork for the cinema and who prepared the submission to Advantage SA. Thank you finally to the District Council of Coober Pedy who own the land and facilities and support the drive-in in any way they can.

Steve Staines accepting the Community Group award for the Outback Open Air Cinema from Rob Gibb of Regional Development Australia on behalf of Elders

The Outback Open Air Cinema, or simply “The Drive-In”, as it is colloquially known is one of only two remaining drive-ins operating in South Australia. The other is at Gepps Cross.

The Coober Pedy Miners Association opened the Drive-In in 1965 as a way of generating income for the town. Back in those days there was no television, no DVDs, no computer games, so the drive-in proved to be a huge success and generated the majority of funds required to maintain the town. During these glory days of the drive-in, movies were screened almost every night and, on a good night, it wasn’t unusual to get over 500 vehicles through the gates!

During the 70s there were also many more blokes then ladies in the booming mining town so the Miners Association wanted to cater to their constituents. They found that the most lucrative generator of cash was… mid-week double-feature porn movies!

With opal mining booming, the 70s were the heydays for Coober Pedy… and the drive-in. It was also, however, the period that saw the most repairs to the facility. On a number of occasions, when patrons didn’t like the movie, some joker would light up a stick of gelignite and throw it at the screen!

The 80s saw television arrive in Coober Pedy. This coupled with the advent of VCRs spelt the beginning of the end for drive-ins not only in Coober Pedy but throughout Australia. Our theatre closed its gates in the early 90s. It was re-opened by a private operator some years later, however with DVDs and computers to compete with, this only lasted a few years. By 2000 the building was dilapidated and the facilities and equipment were in disrepair.

In 2001 a small group of passionate movie lovers, consisting of Kevin Woon, Ishvari Luff and Crystal Hauri approached Council to re-open the drive-in as a community based initiative. Steve Staines was appointed Council representative. Council soon helped the drive-in secure a grant from the Commonwealth Government to upgrade and reopen the facility. That was nearly 10 years ago and the drive-in has been operating ever since.

Today, the choice of films have changed somewhat and the famous slide at the start of each movie ordering patrons not to bring explosives into the cinema is no longer shown. However, thanks to a small group of dedicated volunteers, the drive-in continues to create memories in the minds of another generation. 

The drive-in occupies a special place not only in the hearts of those who grew up in Coober Pedy but also the many European tourists that visit our town each year and have their first drive-in experience in the Opal Capital of the World.

Damian Loller accepts the Westpace Large Business Award for Exact Mining Services who also have an operation in Coober Pedy

Amongst the winners announced at the presentation evening held at the Dunes Café and Auditorium in Roxby  Downs were Westpac Small Business Award Winner – Arid Land Communications; Westpac Large Business Award Winner – Exact Mining Services; 2010 Telstra Hall of Fame Arid Recovery; South Australian Tourism Commission Tourism Award Winner – Gulf Getaways; Nippy’s Sports Award Winner – 13 year old Peyton Fuller

The Advantage SA Regional Awards are proudly supported by the Government of South Australia and Program Partner, Regional Development Australia. The event sponsors for the Far North ceremony are GHD and Roxby Downs Council.