The first drive-in theater opened in 1933 in the heart of New Jersey and Americans immediately took to reveling in their favorite films in open-air — a congenial alternative to the traditional movie-viewing experience. By the 1950s there were more than 4,000 drive-in theaters across the country. At present, only about 350 continue to operate. But, thanks to the pandemic, they’re enjoying a revival of sorts. Business owners are reaping the rewards of this renewed interest among moviegoers. Most drive-in movie theaters charge by the car, not by the person, meaning an entire family can watch not one, but two films at a fraction of the cost of watching it in a multiplex. So, here are some of the best drive in movie theaters in the country and the fancy perks in between, to liven up your movie-watching experience:
1. Wellfleet Drive-In Theater
The Wellfleet Drive-In Theater, established in 1957 is one of the last ones of its kind left standing on Cape Cod. The classic drive-in theater plays movies throughout the weekend. Once you’ve got a ticket, you’re designated a parking spot. Tune your radio to 89.5 FM and you’re set. Most modern cars come with a feature to keep your radios on while the headlights and other accessories remain turned off. So, there’s no need to worry about your batteries running out.
With a flea market and a mini-golf course nearby, it’s ideal for the entire family. The flea market has over 150 vendors from around the town participating. From movie memorabilia and rare antiques to swanky t-shirts and jewelry, you can find pretty much anything here. Meanwhile, the vintage 18-ball mini-golf course houses the original obstacle course from 1961. Be sure to check out the dairy bar and help yourself to some delicious fro-yo. So, grab a cool milkshake or a delectable root beer float before making your way to the drive-in.
Location: 51 State Highway, Route 6, Wellfleet, MA 02667
2. Parma Motor-Vu Drive-In
As one of Idaho’s only drive-in movie theaters, Parma Motor-Vu has entertained local audiences since 1953. With a capacity of 250 vehicles, they’re often known to show double features. But, this family-owned institution is more than just a drive-in movie theater. It has a full-service snack counter serving freshly made popcorn, cheeseburgers, chili dogs and more.
After being shut down for an extended period of time due to the global pandemic, they’re finally opening up again. Additional measures are being taken to ensure the safety of moviegoers. The procedure of ordering from the concession stand was altered and all orders are now being dispatched out the door. Admission tickets are priced at $8 for adults, $7 for seniors, and $3 for children aged between 4 and 11 years. Admissions are free for kids under 4, and dogs are welcome at screenings.
Location: 29522 US 95, Parma, ID 8366
3. The Showboat Drive-In Theater
Located at the edge of the Houston Metropolitan area, The Showboat Drive-In Theater recently reopened for double features. Cars are expected to stay 6 ft away from each other in accordance with the new health guidelines. They’re also one of the very few drive-in theaters that allow a pet. They can either be inside the vehicle or on a leash outside the vehicle. Concessions are now accessed by a mobile application. The application will send a notification ‘Ready to Pickup’ to your phone when the order is ready.
There are two different types of tickets — individually priced and carload priced. Individual tickets are made available for standard types of events. In these situations, tickets will have to bought individually for every member much like a cinema theater. Carload tickets are only applicable for special events. In this case, only one ticket will have to be purchased per vehicle. This ticket includes a parking permit and tickets for all the individuals in the car.
Location: 22422 FM 2920, Tombali, Texas, US, 77477
4. Hull’s Drive-In Movie Theater
Originally the Lee Drive-In theater, it opened in the 1950s with a capacity of approximately 300 cars. 7 years later, the Lee Drive-In was sold and renamed to the current name Hull’s Drive-In. But unfortunately, this local institution was closed in 1998. A group of passionate locals banded together to form a group called Hull’s Angels. This group dedicated itself to find a way to restore the drive-in theater to its former glory. A year later, they miraculously collected the necessary funds to purchase the property and it remains open until today. Currently, the Hull’s Drive-in Theater is America’s only non-profit community-owned establishment of its kind.
They’re currently operating at 50 percent capacity to allow guests to have a complete experience with lawn chairs and blankets. Hand sanitizer dispensers are placed throughout the theater and staff are mandated to wear masks and other personal protective equipment. Concession stands can now be accessed online. They currently charge by the carload — $20 per car for double features and $10 per car for a single feature.
Location: 2367 N. Lee Highway, Lexington, VA- 24450
More popularly known as Drive-In 32, the Greenville Drive-In Theater is just about three hours away from Manhattan. Originally established in 1959, it boasts more than 10 acres of cool grass and a gigantic 85’ screen. They’re also popular for their one-of-a-kind snack bar which sells farm-to-table foods and a Biergarten filled to the brim with local brews.
They are currently operating on limited capacity and tickets can be bought online beforehand. Tickets are currently priced at $8 for single entry, $16 for a couple, $20 for three people, and $24 for a group of 4. Children under 5 years don’t need a ticket. Markers have been placed 6 feet apart to allow for social distancing near the concession stands. Guests are expected to wear masks at all times, the only exceptions being while visiting the concession building or the Biergarten.
Location: 10700 New York Highway 32 Greenville, New York 12083
6. Skyline Drive-In Movie Theater
One of Brooklyn’s latest attractions, the Skyline Drive-In is situated on a massive industrial yard that was previously used to shoot commercials. Since they showed their first movie in June 2020, they’ve been sold out and demands have gone up for more shows. They currently have a capacity of 130 cars. The unique thing about this place is that it offers breathtaking views of the infamous Manhattan skyline. Moviegoers can also feast on treats thanks to a functional concession stand. Guests are welcome to sit outside their cars as long as they’re abiding by social distancing protocol. Tickets are currently priced at $54.99 for a car and $34.99 for a motorcycle. When entering the lot, all that a driver is expected to do is flash the code sent to their smartphone. They then pick a parking spot and tune into the pre-determined radio station.
Location: 1 Oak Street, Brooklyn
7. Silver Moon Drive-In Theater
Established in 1948, this 70-year old drive-in theater is one of the seven remaining ones in all of Florida. They play four movies per night between their two screens all throughout the year. The movies are a mix of the latest releases and classics. After closing down because of the pandemic in April, they’re back in business. The strict guidelines meant that they’re only allowed to operate at a limited capacity. Guests are expected to maintain social distancing at all times. Tickets are currently priced at $6 for adults and $2 for children. These prices include a double feature, meaning you get to watch two movies at the price of one. Guests can stay inside their cars or set up chairs outside, but only with masks on. Tune in to the assigned radio station to hear the movie or rent a speaker for an additional $2.
Location: 4100, New Tampa Highway, Lakeland, Florida
8. Blue Fox Drive-In
Just 90 minutes from Seattle by car and ferry, the Blue Fox Drive-In Theater operates all year long. A special policy of this family-owned business is that they allow visitors to sleep over after the movies. Families pitch up tents and spend their nights gazing at the stars. That’s not all, Blue Fox also has an old-school arcade and a go-karting course attached to their drive-in theater. The go-karting course is open from 4 pm on Fridays and from 12 pm on weekends and closes by dusk. Their newest addition however is a backlot tavern that features local brews, a wide variety of bottled drinks, and an assortment of flavorsome appetizers.
Patrons must be at least 21 years old and alcohol must be consumed within the confines of the tavern. Admission to the drive-in theater is currently priced at $6.50 for adults (11 and up) and $1 for children (5 to 10 years).
Location: 1403, Monroe Landing Road, Oak Harbor, WA 98227
9. Rodeo Drive-In
The Rodeo Drive-In theater is the largest of its kind in all of the Pacific Northwest with a capacity of nearly 1,000 cars. They’re one of the five outdoor theaters now left operating in Washington. All films are currently being broadcast in FM Dolby Stereo Sound and a car radio is required to hear the movie sound. But, some smartphones can be configured to able to synchronize with the sound system. Starting times may vary depending on local weather and the time of the year. Parking spaces are allocated on a first-come, first-serve basis, so make it a point to arrive early. Spaces are usually not reserved.
Their full-service concession stand serves up burgers, pizzas, sandwiches, and pizzas for you to feast on while watching your favorite movie on the screen. They’ve also newly installed playgrounds to keep the children engaged before the show begins or during the intermissions. Tickets cost $10 for adults, $7 for children and seniors.
Location: 7369 State Highway 3 SW, Bremerton, WA 93812
Call – (360) 698-6030 (24 hours)
Open: Fri, Sat, Sun
10. Bengies Drive-In Theater
At a whopping 52 feet high and more than 120 feet wide, the Bengies Drive-In theater features the largest outdoor screen in America. Established in 1956, it’s entertained audiences for over half a decade, providing them access to triple features for one flat price. They’re one of the very few drive-in theaters to be operating at full capacity following the shutdown due to the pandemic. But, masks will need to be worn at all times and guests are expected to maintain social distancing. High contact surfaces are said to be cleaned at regular intervals.
Outside food and beverages are restricted from the premises and sharing of eatables between cars is strictly not entertained. To compensate for this, Bengies does have a snack bar of its own serving up an assorted variety from classic hamburger and pulled pork sandwiches to hand-made pizzas. Entry to the drive-in theater is priced at $12.50 for adults and $7 for children.
Location: 3417, Eastern Boulevard, Middle River, MD 21220
These are some of the best drive-in movie theaters across America. Some of the other popular ones include the Paramount Drive-in and Palm Springs Drive-In theaters in California, Funlan drive-in theater in Tampa, Florida, the family-operated Twin City Drive In in Bristol, Tennessee, and the very recently opened Nite Owl drive-in theatre, Miami. Most of these theaters are currently operating at limited capacity, so it might be a good idea to book your tickets online beforehand. Arrive early to ensure you get the best spot and make the most of this unique experience. Be sure to adhere to the COVID guidelines to enjoy a safe viewing experience.
OTTs may have alleviated some of the charm of the good ol’ theatre thanks to the pandemic, but the nostalgic, open-air experience of the drive-ins might just be the perfect middle-ground offering the best of both worlds!
A self-proclaimed movie buff who swears he's funnier on the Internet than he is in real life. He also constantly makes sitcom references to make sense of a life that is slowly succumbing to entropy.