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Sunday, June 28, 2020

Rome's first Drive-in Theater: Casal Palocco




When we first saw this photograph, from the New York bureau of United Press International, we thought it might be of early construction on the Palazetto dello Sport, designed by Annibale Vitellozzi and engineered by Pier Luigi Nervi. It isn't, but it's likely not a coincidence--given the angled, concrete supports--that the Palazzetto and the structure in the photograph were completed in the same year: 1957. [Thanks to Dianne's cousin, Jim Bennett--an Italophile, for sending us this original UPI photo.] 

The concrete in the photo is there to support a 540 square meter screen for Italy's first drive-in movie theater, then--and perhaps still--the largest ever in Europe, with 60,000 square meters of parking for 700 cars.

Another view of the construction

The completed screen. 

The drive-in was built near Axa in Casal Palocco, a then-new Rome suburb (completed in 1961) on the north side of via Cristoforo Colombo, well beyond the GRA and not far from the coastal town of Ostia. 

The theater was very successful through the 1960s, then fell on hard times until, sometime in the 1980s, it closed. 

In the 1960s

It was briefly reopened in the late 1990s and again, briefly, in 2015, by the committee behind the Trastevere group, Cinema America Occupato (an "illegal" sit-in or squatter type arrangement). 

How it looks today--assuming it's still there. 

Designed to resemble the American suburbs of the 1950s, Casal Palocco was a planned community with design links to Adalberto Libera, whose vision produced Foro Mussolini (now Foro Italico) under the Fascist regime, and to Raffaele de Vico, Rome's most famous and prolific landscape designer. 

The plan for Casal Palocco

Because of its many parks and gardens and athletic fields, Casal Palocco--actually a part of Rome--was known was known as the "Quartiere Verde" ("Green Quarter"). Many of the homes were large and sumptuous. A central shopping plaza had, and has, a rationalist flair. 

Late '50s rationalism

Today, about 32,000 people live in the community. 


Not sure of the date of this photo, but the cars are vintage, and that's Charlton Heston on the screen in the 1956 film, "The Ten Commandments." On the horizon, back left, the Alban Hills.  

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