Chilling out on the cheap at the drive-in

By on April 24, 2012 at 11:01 AM

Posted in: Odds & Ends

It feels like a scene out of an old movie. Families perched on the hood of the car, the smell of popcorn in the air and a double-feature on the big screen just after sunset. It’s a page out of history, all right, but you can still experience it today.

A trip to the drive-in will often include two newly released movies for less than you’d pay for one at a modern movie theater. Even the popcorn and snacks are cheaper.

You’ll save money, get fresh air … and your feet won’t stick to the movie theater floor!

The rise and fall … and rise                   

The first drive-in theater appeared in 1933, in Pennsauken Township, N.J., and by the end of the decade, dozens more had opened. Almost 4,000 were operating in the 1950s. They were the perfect creation for a nation in love with both Detroit and Hollywood.

But during the 1970s and 1980s, rising real estate prices and the need for suburban land drove most of these theaters out of business, and the advent of cable TV and the VCR made it easy for families to watch movies at home. By the late 1990s, if you could find a drive-in theater at all, it was most likely a crumbling screen and an unused parking lot choked with weeds.

But drive-ins have made a comeback. A few of the original theaters still exist, and others have been re-opened as the popularity of drive-ins has grown again. And with the weather getting warmer, it’s the perfect time to rediscover this American pastime. You can find a nearby theater by searching and

13 responses to “Chilling out on the cheap at the drive-in

  1. Li says:

    I wish there were Drive-in’s on Long Island, NY. I’ve never gone to one, but I always imagine how wonderful it would be to go to one.

  2. Jenn says:

    We have one about an hour from me. It is so nice. The best part is you can see the movies with out the noise of others.

  3. Mike says:

    As a former theater manager I can attest to another thing that sealed the fate of Drive-In theaters.  It was the growing problem of illegal drugs.  Many theaters became hangouts for drug dealers.  It was a perfect location for them.  They had lots of young people gathered together in one spot.  Theater managers couldn’t control the criminal elements and neither could local police.  Insurance liability issues made it difficult for owners to make a profit.  In addition the cost to make blockbuster movies required theaters to raise prices because they had to pay higher premiums for the films they showed.  Each showing costed them a viewing fee which was the same no matter how many were watching.

  4. Christina says:

    When I lived in Florida there were two driveins near my home….i loved going because for 6.00 you got to stay through 3 new releases however as time went by it turned out to be a place to hangout for underaged drinkers and drugs dealers because once you were parked security wouldnt patrol throughout the movie….i love drivins but wish there were better security/patrol!

  5. Melissa says:

    Drive Inns , oh love them. Great place to spend time with the family and not kill your wallet. since Im in Colorado now we only have one here. Im happy I live near it though. looking forward to the opening night this weekend !

  6. fonzy says:

    I miss drive-ins…

  7. tom says:

    I’ve had a few beers at the drive in in my younger day but can’t recall seeing any  drug dealers. Mainly take the kiddos these days

  8. Mr Natural says:

    I remember this picture! I saw Joel, Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot making fun of it on MST3K back in 1993!

  9. Go-Girl says:

    Mr Natural: AWESOME! You know about MST3K! Have you heard of Done by the same guys – go check it out!

    I’ve never had the benefit of going to a drive-in movie theater. I’d love to have gone to one, though! I’m looking forward to seeing if there are any in the area – and as for the drug dealers, meh! The police and security can only do so much – remember, folks, if you see these ppl doing this, go right to the manager immediately and tell them to call the police! The cops would love to bag a drugger right out in the open, plus it’ll dissuade others from doing the same!


  10. military brat says:

    i grew up in New Mexico where my dad was stationed and we lived off base across a busy road from a drive-in theater.  We used to sit in the back yard and watch the movie without sound.  We always felt like we were getting away with something.  I still enjoy going to the drive-in but now enjoy the sound along with the movie!

  11. Charles says:

    My parents took me a lot when I was younger. I need to lookup if any are local!

  12. froglegs says:

    E.T.  On the big screen in the basket on the bike flying in front of the moon. Sitting in the bed of the truck with my brother and sister and a big old bucket of popcorn! So sad kids these days don’t get adventures like that with their families.
    Oh well at least they have their iphones, and Angry Birds

  13. ADAM says:

    i was actually able to go see Jurassic Park at the Drive in and it rocked. i completely enjoyed the experience of going to the drive in. With there were more around this area as well.