During these uncertain times, many are finding it difficult to think of something new and exciting to do while social distancing. However, as many businesses that serve as forms of entertainment are shut down due to COVID-19, those who are sheltering in place are turning to drive-in movie theaters for a new out-of-the-box activity and a way to watch movies from somewhere other than the couch.


Traditional movie theaters all over the world have closed their doors, but these drive-in theaters have reported increased ticket sales during this time as individuals are able to practice social distancing while enjoying a movie from the safety of their own cars.

The History of Drive-In Movie Theaters

The classic American entertainment experience of a drive-in theater first began in the early 1900s. Richard Hollingshead patented this idea in 1933 as a solution for his mother who was unable to comfortably fit in the small traditional movie theater seats.

Hollingshead’s drive-in theater idea later became Park-In Theater, a drive-in that catered to families. His idea sparked many more drive-ins to sprout up all over the country — this concept really took off in the 1950s during the Baby Boomer generation, known for being car-lovers.

Families throughout the years flocked to this form of entertainment since it offered a lot of flexibility as compared to indoor theaters. It also served as a very affordable date night option — only around 25 cents at the time.

However, over time as towns became more developed and land became more expensive, these mom-and-pop businesses struggled as mainstream cinemas and technology became more modernized and dominated the industry.

Although drive-ins experienced a loss of business in the past, many have remained opened and are symbols of nostalgia and American culture. With today’s current pandemic, they have made a comeback and offer a way to support local businesses.

Mix things up with this fun activity idea for your family or even for a romantic date night. Below we’ve highlighted the top ten drive-ins movie theaters, as well as 22 additional locations to check out! Read on to explore these retro drive-ins in America.

1. Mission Tiki Drive-In Theatre

mission tiki drive-in

  • Location: Montclair, California
  • Operating Hours: April to October
  • Fun Fact: This drive-in hosts car shows

In 1959, Hawaii became a state which led to the mainland becoming intrigued by Polynesian tiki bars and home decor. Mission Tiki Drive-In is the perfect example of this retro Hawaiian aesthetic. After being closed down for 50 years, it finally got revamped in 2006. This location has four screens that show films seven days a week.

2. 99W Drive-In Theatre 

99w drive-in

  • Location: Newberg, Oregon
  • Operating Hours: April to October
  • Fun Fact: This drive-in is one of only four still operating in Oregon

This old-fashioned movie theater opened up in 1953 with only one screen and has been operated by the same family for three generations. The first films to be played at 99W featured Yvonne De Carlo in “Sea Devils” and “Under the Sahara.” People who visit this drive-in can experience a nostalgic environment as they visit the old-timey snack bar during the film’s intermission.

3. Coyote Drive-In

coyote drive-in

  • Location: Fort Worth, Texas
  • Operating Hours: Year-round
  • Fun Fact: Come hungry — this drive-in has an onsite cantina

The Coyote Drive-In theater was founded in 2011 with the goal of creating a family-friendly experience in Fort Worth. This drive-in location offers scenic views of the city. Be sure to arrive before the movie screening to listen to some live music while you enjoy a nice cold beer.

4. Skyview Drive-In

skyview drive-in

  • Location: Skyview, Illinois
  • Operating Hours: April to September
  • Fun Fact: This location’s original playground from the 1950s has been remodeled for kids to enjoy

This location opened up in 1949 and was recognizable for the pink paint job it donned during the ‘60s and ‘70s. While it’s no longer pink, Skyview Drive-In continues to show double features on Fridays and Saturdays to a loyal community of movie buffs.

5. Starlight Drive-In Theater 

starlight drive-in

  • Location: Atlanta, Georgia
  • Operating Hours: Year-round
  • Fun Fact: You can bring your own food to this location

The Starlight Drive-In Theater is well-known in Atlanta for its eclectic art-deco style and has been operating for 60 years. With over four screens, you can enjoy the most recent Hollywood movies. You can also check out their flea market as an added bonus to your drive-in experience.

6. Galaxy Drive-In Theatre  

galaxy drive-in

  • Location: Ennis, Texas
  • Operating Hours: Year-round
  • Fun Fact: Two movies only cost seven dollars at this location

Ahead of its old-fashioned counterparts, the Galaxy Drive-In Theatre allows you to purchase your movie tickets ahead of time and beat the crowds. It even features the occasional 3-D movie, so make sure you get your popcorn ready!

7. Highway 21 Drive-In 

highway 21 drive-in

  • Location: Beaufort, South Carolina
  • Operating Hours: Year-round
  • Fun Fact: This drive-in is known for raising money for their community

Visit this roadside favorite to watch your favorite films under the stars. The Highway 21 Drive-In opened up back in the ‘70s and survived the mass closing of these theaters during the ‘80s. Today, they’re known for philanthropic events that help benefit local residents.

8. Swan Drive-In Theatre 

swan drive-in

  • Location: Blue Ridge, Georgia
  • Operating Hours: Year-round
  • Fun Fact: This drive-in theater was founded by a World War II veteran

One of four remaining drive-in movie theaters in Georgia, the Swan offers blockbuster movie showings year-round. During World War 11, Mr. Tilley, the owner, was stationed in England. While in England, he admired the swans swimming in the lakes and ponds and decided that “Swan” would be the name of this drive-in. Visit this location to embrace a little slice of history!

9. Stars & Stripes Drive-In Theater 

stars and stripes drive-in

  • Location: Lubbock, Texas
  • Operating Hours: Year-round
  • Fun Fact: This drive-in has a second location in New Braunfels, Texas

Get a taste of what life was like back in the 1950s at the Stars & Stripes Drive-In. In addition to showing movies on three different screens, this Texas theater’s most interesting quirk might be its 1950s-themed cafe, complete with classic soda parlor-style milkshakes.

10. Boulevard Drive-In Theatre 

Boulevard drive-in

  • Location: Kansas City, Kansas
  • Operating Hours: April to September
  • Fun Fact: Their box office has been untouched since the 1950s

The Boulevard Drive-In Theatre in Kansas City is a family-friendly location that has been open since 1950. Children under 11 can enter for free, and you can even bring your own snacks and drinks. A Swap & Shop flea market has been hosted there since 1975.

22 Additional Drive-ins to Visit Around the U.S. 

  1. Capri Drive-In Theater, Coldwater, Michigan
  2. Harvest Moon Twin Drive-In Movie Theater, Gibson City, Illinois
  3. Bangor Drive-In, Herman, Maine
  4. Midway Drive-In Theater, Minetto, New York
  5. Santee Drive-In Theatre, Santee, San Diego
  6. 66 Drive-In, Carthage, Missouri
  7. Swap Shop Drive-In, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
  8. Bengies Drive-In, Baltimore, Maryland
  9. Admiral Twin Drive-In, Tulsa, Oklahoma
  10. Route 66 Drive-In, Springfield, Illinois
  11. Becky’s Drive-In Theatre, Walnutport, Pennsylvania
  12. Four Brothers Drive-In, Amenia, New York
  13. Greenville Drive-In, Greenville, New York
  14. Warwick Drive-In, Warwick, New York
  15. Saco Drive-In, Saco, Maine
  16. Wellfleet Drive-In Theatre, Cape Cod, Massachusetts
  17. Hull’s Drive-In, Lexington, Virginia
  18. Malco Summer Quartet Drive-In, Memphis, Tennessee
  19. Ford-Wyoming Theatre, Dearborn, Michigan
  20. Delsea Drive-In, Vineland, New Jersey
  21. Mesa Drive-In, Pueblo, Colorado
  22. Mendon Twin Drive-In, Mendon, Massachusetts

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Although drive-ins may seem like an American relic, these 32 drive-in movie theaters still serve as a form of entertainment for many communities, and also offer a great social distancing activity during this uncertain time. To check out these locations, be sure to rent a car to experience them yourself on a nostalgia-filled adventure! Before your visit, double-check hours of operation as they may vary due to COVID-19. Please be sure to follow current social distancing guidelines during your visit.

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