14 Most Iconic Drive-In Movie Theaters Left in America
Nothing says summer like a watching a movie under the stars! We rounded up the oldest, biggest, and most fun drive-ins in America.
South Bay Drive-In Theater, San Diego
Opened in 1958, the South Bay Drive-In theater in San Diego has been welcoming families for over 60 years. With this coastal city having an averaging temperature of 70 degrees at night, the drive-in is open seven days a week, 362 days a year. The theater also doubles as a swap meet three days a week where you’ll find everything from phone chargers to socks to taco trucks. Fun fact: Stranger Things actor Matthew Modine‘s dad was the manager of various drive-in movie theaters and he spent time hanging around them when he was a kid, no doubt inspiring his acting career.
The Family Drive-In, Stephens, Virginia
courtesy Family Drive-In Theatre
Only a 90-minute drive from Washington, D.C. (depending on traffic), The Family Drive-In in Stephens, Virginia is great for families, as the name suggests. The drive is worth it as you can enjoy a double feature for the price of one movie. If your kids get bored at the drive-in movie theater, they can head to the playground and we love that dogs are welcome, too. Another highlight includes the fun music from the 50s, 60s, and 70s playing under the moonlit sky from the original car speakers on speaker poles. Add this place to the most incredible summer bucket list ideas you don’t want to miss out on.
The Star Drive-In Theater, Montrose, Colorado
This family-owned drive-in, located about 1.5 hours from Telluride, is as celebrated for its concession stand as it is for its double features, with guests lining up for its famous cheeseburgers and homemade French fries. Bonus: Kids under 11 are free. Every June, the beloved drive-in hosts a “Back to the 60s Night” with a classic car show and costume contest.
Bengies Drive-In Theater, Middle River, Maryland
courtesy Bengies Drive-In
Head to Bengies Drive-In Theatre in Middle River, Maryland to catch a flick on what they claim is the biggest movie screen in America—52-foot tall by 120- foot wide. Since 1956, the movies always open with the playing of the American anthem and the popular intermission features vintage movie trailers and fun, audience participation games. While many drive-in movie theaters have double features, Bengies offers a triple feature for one low price, with kids under four free. A trip here is almost like a mini vacation for the family.
49er Drive-In Theater, Valparaiso, Indiana
Opened in 1956, when Dwight D. Eisenhower was president, the 49er Drive-In Theatre in Valparaiso, Indiana is one of the Hoosier state’s best drive-in theaters. The 49er welcomes all with its vintage red sign and you’re invited to bring lawn chairs, your own food (there’s a concession stand, too) and a frisbee as you while away the time before the movie starts. And should you forget to turn off your car lights or drain your battery by running the A.C. a friendly 49er staff member can give your car a complimentary jump.
Hyde Park Drive-In Theater, Hyde Park, New York
Located in the heart of the Hudson Valley, the Hyde Park Drive-In Theater has been a popular upstate New York destination for almost 70 years. The historic drive-in movie theater sits on 12 acres and is across from Springwood, the former estate of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, which is now a National Historic Site. The dog-friendly, al fresco theater is open nightly mid-April to mid-November and offers a popular concession stand, featuring Hershey milkshakes.
Valle Drive-In, Newton, Iowa
Established in 1948, Valle Drive-In in Newton, Iowa is not only the state’s oldest drive-in movie theater but also one of the country’s. This historic cinema shows double features seven days a week from Memorial Day to Labor Day and the beautiful grounds are perfect for playing games and catching up with friends and neighbors before the sun sets. In fact, you can rent the theater after the season closes, starting at $1,000! See if you can catch some of these iconic movies set in every state at the drive-in.
25 Drive-In, Greenwood, South Carolina
Opened 74 years ago before falling into disrepair and then re-opening in 2009, the 25 Drive-In located in Greenwood, South Carolina is now as popular for its delicious barbecue as it is for its three outdoor movie screens. Open every weekend, rain or shine, families can roll up early and enjoy a dinner of a BBQ tenderloin sandwich with a side of fried pickles or jalapeno poppers.
West Wind Drive-In, Glendale Arizona
Opened in 1979, the West Wind Drive-In Theater is now fully digital and boasts nine movie screens making it the largest drive in West of the Mississippi. The iconic drive-in offers a full snack bar, playground, and arcade as well as pajama parties and customer appreciation nights where movies are free. It’s open 365 days a year—rain or shine.
Delsea Drive-In, Vineland, New Jersey
courtesy Delsea Drive-In Theatre
New Jersey is home to America’s very first drive-in, opened in 193—but, it has since closed, leaving the historic Delsea Drive-In as the Garden State’s only remaining operational drive-in movie theatre. The theater, located about an hour from Atlantic City, originally opened in 1949 and closed in 1987, before re-opening in 2004. You can watch movies under the stars Thursday through Sunday in the summer and pets are allowed on Sundays. Brush up on your movie trivia facts before you hit the drive-in.
The Silver Moon Drive-In Theatre, Lakeland, Florida
Courtesy The Silver Moon Drive-In Theatre
Opened in 1948, the family-owned business survived a damaging tornado in 1950 (although the screen had to be rebuilt) and still stands strong today serving as a local institution in Central Florida. Admission prices to the outdoor cinema feel like from a bygone era: 10 and over is $6, ages four to nine is $2, and under four are free! Check out their Facebook page for show times.
Coleman’s Motor-Vu Drive-In, Riverdale, Utah
Opened in 1947, a young Howard Coleman started working at Coleman’s Motor-Vu Drive-In as a “lot boy” in 1952 He eventually became the manager and worked at the theater until 1977 when he retired. Then, in 1979, when the current owners threatened to close the theater, he bought it himself. Coleman continued to work at the box office until 1999 when he was no longer physically able to. His youngest son has been running the theater ever since. The family-owned business has four digitally-projected screens and it hosts a swap meet on every Saturday and Sunday morning throughout the year.
99W Drive-In, Newburg, Oregon
Courtesy Tatiania Lessaos
Located an hour outside of Portland, 99W Drive-In in Newburg, Oregon is a single screen theater that opened 66 years ago in 1953. Now run by the grandson of the founder, the 99W is one of America’s oldest family-owned drive-in movie theaters. It’s a fun spot on the weekends for families and hipsters alike who enjoy the retro snack bar vibe and intermission reel. It’s open May to October. Now you might able to say with confidence that you’ve watched some of these classic movies people have lied about seeing.
Electric Dusk Drive-In, Los Angeles
Los Angeles’ only drive-in, the Electric Dusk Drive-In offers movies from the ’80s, ’90s, and ’00s, as well as new releases. Their astroturf seating allows viewers to mingle as they watch a flick under the stars against the backdrop of the L.A. skyline. The “Snack Shack” offers healthy options, like veggie burgers, but you’re allowed to bring your own food, too. Setting up an at-home backyard theater? These are our 16 picks for top summer flicks to watch with the family.