THE (REALLY) BIG SCREEN
Drive-in theaters may not be as numerous as they were when car culture first took off in the 1950s, but many are still around to provide an inimitable viewing experience for lovers of new and old cinema alike. Best of all, they offer great deals on admission and concessions compared to their indoor counterparts, which makes them a cheap way to enjoy a movie or two ... or three. Check out these 40 favorites from across the nation.
BLUE FOX DRIVE-IN THEATER
Oak Harbor, Washington
This drive-in in Washington's scenic San Juan Islands is more than just a theater -- it also boasts an old-school arcade and go-kart facilities where you can buy $15-$20 party packages and bring an entire group. Admission to the Blue Fox for weekend screenings of new-release films is only $7 per adult, and there are also weekly specials on concessions.
RODEO DRIVE-IN THEATRE
Washington State's largest outdoor cinema complex, the Rodeo Drive-In can hold up to 1,000 cars and shows new movies on three screens from mid-March until the end of September. Admission is $9.75 per adult, and the theater includes a full-service concession stand with a signature meal known as a pizza dog.
WEST WIND DRIVE-IN
One of few remaining chains specializing in drive-in theaters, West Wind has several locations in the western United States, each one offering an enormous screen with impressive digital projection. Guests will find the best value on Tuesdays, when adult tickets cost only $5.25 per person, down from $7.50 on other nights. Children ages 5 to 11 always cost only $1.25.
EL RANCHO 4
Also owned by West Wind, this Reno-area theater specializes in discounted double features, which often pair new-release movies of vastly different styles, making for an enjoyably quirky viewing experience. Prices remain the same for these double features: $7.50 for adults and $1.25 for kids 5 to 11. The El Rancho also has a Tuesday bargain price of $5.25 for adults.
San Luis Obispo, California
This theater is just off scenic Highway 101 and shows new films seven nights a week for admission prices ranging from $4 per child to $9 per adult. Swap meets are held in the car park by day, but the theater box office opens at 7:30 p.m. every night for film screenings posted on the theater's Facebook page.
Santa Maria, California
Parking is easy and the prices are fair at this central California drive-in, where admission to the nightly double feature costs only $9 per adult and $4 per child. The snack bar at the Hi-Way Drive-In is worth a stop on the way in, if only for the old-fashioned nachos with real cheese sauce.
WHEEL-IN MOTOR MOVIE
Port Townsend, Washington
On Washington's Olympic peninsula, the Wheel-In Motor Movie provides a snack bar and old-fashioned metal speakers that rest on your car window for its screenings, which cost a standard $9 for adults, $7 for seniors and children, and free for those under 6.
An old-fashioned snack-bar reel plays during the intermission between double features at this Portland-area drive-in, originally opened in 1953. Double features still screen at the 99W every weekend night during the summer. Admission costs $5 per child and $8 per adult, though single-occupant vehicles are charged a higher price of $13.
The Parma Motor-Vu, still family-owned after 64 years, shows double features of newly released blockbusters Wednesday through Sunday each week. Admission is $8 for adults, $7 for seniors, and $3 for children 4 to 11. Admission is free for kids under 4, and dogs are welcome at screenings.
HI-WAY DRIVE-IN THEATRE
Stop by early for a double feature any weekend night in summer to enjoy the concessions and atmosphere of the Hi-Way, Michigan's oldest outdoor movie venue. Located about two hours from Detroit, the theater charges $8.50 for adult admission, $6.50 for kids, and nothing for toddlers 2 and under.
SOUTH BAY DRIVE-IN THEATRE
Nestled not far from the Mexican border, it's only fitting that this drive-in distinguishes itself from competitors with Mexican food offerings, such as carne asada nachos. The South Bay Drive-In also boasts three screens showing double features of recent releases nightly, charging $9 for adults and $7 for children 5 to 9.
Only a mile from historic Route 66, this 600-car drive-in offers two screens playing nightly double features for $9 per adult. The Skyline Drive-In provides a full snack bar onsite and will operate until at least Thanksgiving weekend.
VAN BUREN DRIVE-IN THEATER
Once the site of an orange grove, the Van Buren Drive-In was renovated in 2006 to reflect its California history with a mural and color scheme in keeping with the theater's nostalgic appeal. Tickets are $9 per adult but only $1 for kids ages 5 to 9. Moviegoers can order snacks without leaving their cars using the theater's express system, accessed via smartphone.
Brand new releases are paired with those from several months prior at the Hi-Way in central Pennsylvania. The snack bar has the usual fast food concessions and sodas, as well as milk from a local producer. Bring cash to cover snacks and $8 admission charges for a night at this cash-only theater.
STAR DRIVE-IN THEATRE
Admission is always free for children under 11 at the Star Drive-In, and adult admission drops from $8.50 to $6 on Tuesdays. The nightly double features begin at dusk, but arrive early to buy tickets and sample the homemade burgers and fries from the concessions stand.
MOTOR VU THEATER
Enjoy the films and the stars in the heavens at this drive-in not far from Great Salt Lake, where plastic popcorn tubs can be brought back for refills on subsequent visits within the same season. At Motor Vu Theater, admission for a double feature on any weekend night is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors, and $2 for kids under 12.
88 DRIVE-IN THEATRE
Commerce City, Colorado
It's only $8 per person and free for kids under 12 to watch three films in a row at the 88 Drive-In Theatre, one of Denver's few remaining drive-ins. The triple features of new releases are shown seven days a week. Come Monday through Thursday to get two 16-ounce drinks with the purchase of a pizza ($11).
THE SPUD DRIVE-IN
Near the western entrance of Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks, the Spud Drive-In is set amidst a scenic rural backdrop perfect for stargazing. Screenings of new-release features are on Fridays and Saturdays. Admission is $7 per adult and $4 per child ages 6 to 12, and it's worth indulging in something from its menu of fast food favorites -- preferably something with fries ($3).
With a $9 admission fee, one highlight of the Mesa Drive-In is the concession stand, where guests can call ahead before arriving at the pickup window to avoid long waits. Try the half-pound green chili slopper burger ($8).
SILVER BOW DRIVE-IN
Enjoy stargazing in Big Sky Country and a double feature at the Silver Bow Drive-In any weekend night for only $6 per adult and $4 per child -- cash only. Guests can also come on foot, but they will need a portable radio to hear audio.
THE SHOWBOAT DRIVE-IN THEATER
The Showboat offers weekend double features in a rural spot on the edge of Houston's metropolitan area. Viewers can stake out parking spots for screenings of current releases when the gates open at 6:30 p.m. on Fridays and 7 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
COYOTE DRIVE-IN THEATER & CANTEEN
Fort Worth, Texas
For the best prices, come to the Coyote Drive-In on Tuesdays for $5 admission to one of two nightly double features, down from $8 per adult all other nights. That leaves more to spend on canteen menu items like $5 Frito pie, $10 chicken alfredo pizza, and $5 cans of craft beer. Coyote also has drive-ins in Lewisville, Texas, and Leeds, Alabama.
ADMIRAL TWIN DRIVE-IN
Movie fans can head over any night of the week to watch a double feature on one of the Admiral's twin screens. Admission prices are $7 per adult and $3 per child 11 or younger. Like most drive-ins, the theater survives on its food sales and patrons are urged to take advantage of the all-American grilled and fried favorites of its snack bar.
TOWN & COUNTRY DRIVE-IN THEATRE
Upon opening in 1956, the Town & Country Drive-In was the biggest drive-in in Texas, with a rooftop garden and a playground featuring a Ferris wheel. Today, it's still impressive, with four screens showing double features of current releases and the occasional revival nightly for $8 per adult and $4 per child. The best deals come from its concession menu though, with $3 burgers and $1.50 hot dogs.
The Starlite in Wichita is just one of many theaters operating under this name across America. It's notable for its twin screens showing double features every day of the week, some of them including advanced screenings of new films the day before release. Tickets to see two movies are $9 per adult and $3 for children ages 5 to 11.
HARVEST MOON TWIN DRIVE-IN MOVIE THEATRE
Gibson City, Illinois
In the green plains of central Illinois, the Harvest Moon Twin provides everything you need to experience an ideal weekend double feature, with tickets costing $7 per adult. Portable FM radios can be rented for $2, and snacks start at $2 for candy and fresh hot drinks, or you can bring in outside food with the purchase of a $5 permit.
BIG SKY TWIN DRIVE-IN THEATRE
Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
One of Wisconsin's few remaining drive-ins, Big Sky stays open from early May until fall showing two-packs of new releases at dusk every night of the week for $8 per adult and $5 per child. Since it advertises itself as the "home of the Big Mamaburger," you probably shouldn't pass up the $3.50 specialty.
VALI-HI DRIVE-IN THEATRE
Lake Elmo, Minnesota
Get three movies for the price of one (that is, $8.50 per adult, $1 per child) any night of the week at the Vali-Hi, which shows new releases on three screens. Three films in a row make for a long night, but the onsite arcade can help keep a whole family entertained.
In the off-season, Valle Drive-In becomes host to private groups holding events or just screening their own films under the stars, but for now, it's showing standard double features seven days a week for $8 per adult.
B&B THEATRES TWIN DRIVE-IN
The B&B stays open throughout the year to show double features beginning at dusk for $10 per adult and free for all children 11 and under. At least once a month, the theater hosts a "Retro Night" featuring a classic film and $5 admission.
At $11 per adult and $6 per child, the prices at the Georgetown Drive-In aren't the best at this well-located theater near Louisville, Kentucky, but the classic drive-in experience is top-notch, with concessions and an onsite playground for kids.
SOUTH DRIVE-IN THEATRE
Come Sunday through Thursday for the $7.50 admission deal to the South Drive-In's nightly double feature. On weekends and holidays, the adult price jumps to $9.50, while the concessions menu stays cheap throughout the week with $3 quarter-pound burgers. On certain days, the facility also hosts an enormous flea market billed as "200 yard and garage sales in one location."
SUMMER QUARTET DRIVE-IN
An art-deco gem on the eastern edge of Memphis, the Summer Quartet Drive-In is open seven nights a week showing two-packs of new releases on all of its four screens beginning at 8:30. Children under 10 are free; the adult admission price is $7.50.
WILDERNESS OUTDOOR MOVIE THEATER
Double features are shown on two screens every weekend night for the scant charge of $7 admission per guest. Verdant lawns and loose gravel lots allow both drivers and pedestrians to enjoy this outdoor cinema experience together. Gates open two hours before show time, leaving plenty of time to peruse the concessions menu where everything is $5 or less.
MONETTA DRIVE-IN THEATRE
Monetta, South Carolina
Otherwise known as The Big Mo, this seasonal drive-in, which includes a playground for children, charges $9 for admission to its weekend double features. During intermissions, guests participate in trivia contests to win free food and prizes.
BENGIES DRIVE-IN THEATRE
Middle River, Maryland
This theater near Baltimore claims it has the largest theater screen in the nation, measuring an astonishing 6,240 square feet. Admission varies from $5 to $10 per adult for weekend screenings, many of which are triple or even quadruple features padded out by classic cartoons through intermission.
WARWICK DRIVE-IN THEATRE
Warwick, New York
Little has changed about the drive-in experience since the Warwick Drive-In first opened in 1950, though ticket prices have certainly gone up -- now at $11 per adult for the latest double features showing seven nights a week. Movie fans can get updates on the films showing on all three screens easily using the theater's new app, available on iPhone and Android.
MENDON TWIN DRIVE-IN
Load the entire family into a single vehicle for this theater, which charges $27 per vehicle for its nightly double features. The new releases shown during summer switch to retro classics for September, and then horror movies for October. The theater also has a fully stocked snack bar with separate facilities for an ice cream shop and a beer garden serving drafts as well as wine and sangria.
At this seasonal single-screen drive-in, weekend double features begin showing at dusk, which can be considerably late in the summers of southern Maine. It's difficult to beat the admission prices at the Saco Drive-In, which start at $15 per vehicle with three or fewer people and $20 for four or more.
GOOCHLAND DRIVE-IN THEATER
Open Thursdays to Sunday in summer, the Goochland Drive-In offers an inimitable summer experience, complete with a children's playground and wooden tables surrounding a concessions stand where every item is under $4. Tickets are usually $8.50 per person for scheduled double features, except on Thursdays, when single films are often shown for a discounted price.