If you’ve ever had the retro pleasure of watching a movie at a drive-in, then you already know that there’s no other moviegoing experience quite like it. We’ve tracked down 25 drive-ins throughout the country where you can still cruise on up and watch a movie from the comfort of your own car.
The first drive-in movie theater opened in Camden, New Jersey, in 1933, and at the trend's peak in the '50s and '60s, there were about 5,000 drive-in theaters across the country. Today, there are less than 500 still around, but some amazing vintage drive-in theaters have managed to stand the test of time or make comebacks. There are even some brand-new drive-ins that combine nostalgic charm with modern amenities. Read on to learn about some of the coolest drive-ins around the country.
Route 66 is the epitome of Americana from a bygone era, and a few classic drive-ins remain along the Mother Road, including the 66 Drive-In Theatre in Carthage, Missouri. First opened in 1949, it was restored and reopened in 1998. It now shows two movies on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday every week during the summer. Like many iconic symbols of Route 66, it was recreated in the Pixar movie “Cars.” It's a must-visit stop on any family Route 66 road trip.
Open since 1953, the 99W Drive-In is a single-screen theater just outside Portland, Oregon, that hasn't changed much in its more than 60-year history. It still screens vintage drive-in ads from the '50s and '60s before features and has an arcade with games and pinball machines. The theater hosts vintage car club meetups as well as special film screenings, such as "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."
First opened in 1951, this drive-in was renamed the Admiral in 1952 and was in business for more than 50 years until its wooden screen tower burned down in a fire in 2010. Fans of the theater raised more than $30,000 to help rebuild it with new metal screens, and it was able to reopen in 2012. The Twin was a shooting location for Francis Ford Coppola's '60s-era movie "The Outsiders," making it a Hollywood movie location you can actually visit.
Courtesy of Becky's Drive-In Theatre
Film-lover William D. Beck founded a drive-in theater in Pennsylvania in 1946, and his children continue to run the business to this day. Patrons of this seasonal, pet-friendly two-screen theater can feel its mom-and-pop charm, especially at community events like fireworks shows and holiday celebrations.
Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images/TAT
Bengies, located in the underrated American city of Baltimore, has the biggest drive-in screen in the country, measuring 52 feet by 120 feet. On top of showing the latest releases, the theater, open since 1956, also hosts events like movie marathons, camp-ins, a Halloween costume contest and classic holiday movie screenings.
Open since 1959, Washington state's Blue Fox Drive-In has a go-kart track, arcade and extensive snack bar with a menu including pizza, cheesesteaks, more than 100 kinds of candy and even gluten-free options. The theater also sells its own custom 64-ounce or 100-ounce "Really Big Mugs" of soda. They also show vintage cartoons such as Looney Toons shorts before the movies start.
Boulevard Drive-In Theater/Yelp
This family-friendly drive-in in Kansas City, Kansas, has been open since 1950. Kids under 11 are admitted for free, and moviegoers can bring their own snacks and coolers. A Swap & Shop flea market has been hosted there since 1975.
This twin-screen drive-in opened in 1964 and charged $1 for admission. Today, the theater is open seven nights a week from March until late October. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for kids age 5 to 11, while children under 5 are free. Make sure to arrive early for screenings — the line can reach half a mile long during the busy summer months.
One of the few remaining drive-in movie theaters in Colorado, the Comanche Drive-In is the highest drive-in in the country, at an elevation of more than 8,000 feet. Open since 1967, this family-run business shows new Hollywood releases and classic films with the Rocky Mountains as a backdrop.
Coyote Drive-In is a fantastic local gathering place that captures the communal spirit of drive-ins of yore. Opened in 2013, the theater has three screens, and the Fort Worth skyline peeks through behind them. There's a playground, games (like giant Jenga) and live music to entertain guests before the film, as well as a concession stand, food trucks and a bar. Moviegoers can even bike or ride their horse up to the theater from the Trinity River trail and take in a flick from a lawn chair.
New Jersey is the birthplace of the drive-in, but there's only one drive-in left in the Garden State. The Delsea Drive-In Theatre was built in 1949 and closed in 1987 but reopened in 2004. It boasts an extensive snack bar menu ranging from classic treats to edamame and pierogies. Moviegoers can order food from their smartphones and get a notification when it's ready for pickup at the concession stand.
The Ford-Wyoming Theater in Dearborn, Michigan, outside of Detroit, was once the largest drive-in in the country, with nine screens and a capacity of 3,000 cars. Today, the theater has five screens showing nightly double features year-round. During the chilly Midwestern winter months, in-car heaters are available to keep you toasty while your battery is off.
The Greenville Drive-In might have been opened in 1959, but it's seen many hip, modern amenities added after changing hands over the years. Its snack shack sells locally sourced foods and there's a beer garden serving local brews. Visitors can get a summer-long season pass to screenings of fan-favorite films like "The Princess Bride," "Die Hard" and "The Wizard of Oz" as well as new movies from up-and-coming local filmmakers.
Harvest Moon Twin Drive In Movie Theatre/Yelp
The Harvest Moon Twin Drive-In in Gibson City, Illinois, first opened in 1954 and closed down twice until it was reopened in 1989. It screens first-run features during the summertime and also hosts events such as car shows and fireworks displays. The pet-friendly venue also allows families to grill out and play lawn games before the movies start.
The four-screen Malco Drive-In Theater in Memphis, Tennessee, is a summer tradition for many locals. Children under 10 years old are admitted free and guests can bring their own food, so it's a fun, affordable and private way to beat the heat and enjoy a family outing in the summertime.
Tracy Boulian/Colorado Springs Gazette/TNS/TAT
One of fewer than 10 remaining drive-ins in Colorado, Mesa Drive-In in Pueblo opened in 1951 with a single screen. It was rescued from scheduled demolition in 1994 and has expanded to three screens since then. The largest drive-in in the state, it can fit 1,000 cars, has digital projection and is open seasonally seven nights a week. You can call ahead to place your concession order for classics like popcorn and nachos as well as more innovative fare like funnel cake fries or a green chile burger.
After Hawaii became a state in 1959, the mainland became obsessed with all things Polynesian, from home decor to tiki bars to Elvis' "Blue Hawaii." This retro Hawaiian aesthetic is what gives Mission Tiki Drive-In Theater its charm. It opened in 1956 and fell into disrepair before getting a second life through a 2006 remodel. The theater shows first-run movies seven days a week on four screens. It also hosts a swap meet, car shows and other annual events.
The Route 66 Drive-In in Springfield, Illinois, closed in 1980 and sat vacant for decades before it was renovated and reopened in 2002. The seasonal two-screen theater offers closed captioning on Monday nights and is next door to the Skateland South roller rink and Knight's Action Park, a water and amusement park with batting cages and a golf range.
Courtesy of Charcoal Corral and Silver Lake Twin Drive-In
Bought by the Stefanon family in 1966, this drive-in near the eastern shore of New York state's Silver Lake has long been a family entertainment destination thanks to its sit-down restaurant, ice cream parlor, arcade, mini-golf course, 40-foot mining sluice and outdoor bandstand. The drive-in hosts events throughout the summer such as karaoke night, line dancing, live music, fish fries and more.
The Spud Drive-In outside Driggs, Idaho, pays tribute to its potato-farming surroundings through its name and its appearance. The theater's entrance sign is a 1946 Chevrolet truck with a giant potato in the bed. Movies are projected on a rustic-looking screen with the Teton Mountains as a backdrop. The drive-in almost shuttered in 2011, but with local and tourist support it has remained open.
Thanks to the preservation of its art-deco style, the Starlight Drive-In Theatre on the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia, is a delightful blast from the past. Open since 1949, the drive-in has added screens over the years, bringing its total up to four. The theater also hosts a swap meet and events like live music and special screenings.
The current largest drive-in in the United States is Florida's Swap Shop Drive-In, a complex with 14 screens as well as a kitschy indoor and outdoor flea market, an arcade and carnival rides. You don't have to leave your car to get concessions; employees drive around on golf carts selling food and drinks during the show. Just flash your lights to get their attention.
First opened in 1957, this Massachusetts drive-in theater still has its original speaker box stands, but modern moviegoers can also get crisp sound through their vehicle's speakers. Wellfleet Drive-In has upgraded digital projectors, a mini-golf course and snack bar and also hosts a large seasonal flea market.
There is only one remaining drive-in in the state of Arizona. West Wind Drive-In in Glendale is part of the largest drive-in theatre chain in the world. First opened in 1979 with nine screens, it also has a playground, arcade and snack bar. And while you're crusing in your car, why not pull up to one of these 50 drive-in diners that still exist.
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