Despite living in a time when we can watch movies anywhere on the screens of our devices, there’s still something to be said for the nostalgic pull of a drive-in movie. Many of the still-existing theaters have come a long way from the first, opened in 1933.
They now offer HD projections and fancy modern screens (though some still let you tune in with your car radio). But the main draw is spending time outdoors watching a film under the stars, eating popcorn or hot dogs from the concession stand, of course. None of these places will disappoint.
Harvest Moon Twin Drive-In, Illinois
This Gibson City, Illinois, drive-in has had a tumultuous past since it’s opening in 1954. Temporarily shut down on three separate occasions for years at a time (due to a tornado, a savage storm, and declining attendance in the late seventies), the Harvest Moon Twin Drive-In was brought back by new owners who believed in its magic each time. And while it now boasts modern new screens and HD projectors to show first-run films, it keeps the old-school charm alive with carnivals, car shows, and its “$2 bill giveaway.” Moviegoers can also barbecue food on an outdoor grill before the movie, making for a perfect summer night.
Becky’s Drive-In, Pennsylvania
Becky’s Drive-In was opened by William D. Beck (“Becky”), a professional projectionist and cine-photographer in the early 1940s and has been wow-ing audiences with it’s atmosphere ever since. Truly a family-friendly establishment, the Walnutport, Pennsylvania, grounds offer pony rides for children as they wait for sunset and offer funnel cakes and other fun foods to munch on throughout the night. The gently sloping hill leading down to the screen means there’s not a bad seat in the house, and each car can tune in with its FM radio or rent a radio from the staff.
99W Drive-In, Oregon
This drive-in, located in Newberg, Oregon, has ranked near the top of many best-of lists (topping USA Today’s) and it’s not hard to see why. The theater treats moviegoers to double features for $8 a ticket ($5 for children under 12) every Friday through Sunday. It’s been family-run since its debut in August 1953, and is currently run by the founder’s grandson, who credits the community who attend the showings with the drive-in’s success. This year he told the Oregonian: “They say it’s an energy at the 99W,” Francis said. “It’s when there’s a lot of people here that creates that kind of energy.”
Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In, Texas
Austin aims to keep itself “weird” and the people behind the Blue Starlite are helping it succeed with the one and only pop-up boutique drive-in. In 2009, the brains behind the operation, Josh Frank, started buying old drive-in speakers off of ebay and didn’t stop until he had everything he needed to make his dream a reality. The Blue Starlite focuses more on quality than quantity, with space for only 75 cars (and more space for those on bikes–it is Texas after all), and a repertoire that cycles between double features of classics and cult films.