6 Ways to Turn a Drive-In Theater Into Your (Cheap) Ticket to Summer Fun
Drive-ins aren’t merely a relic of the past — you might even have one on your backyard.
Like the brick-and-mortar theaters, drive-ins have had to raise ticket prices due to inflation. Still, drive-ins are a pretty good deal.
A family of four can purchase tickets to most drive-ins for less than $30. (Expect to pay more than $50 at an AMC theater.) Most drive-ins offer free or discounted tickets to young children — and sometimes to seniors and military veterans. Some will allow you to bring your own food for a fee that’s typically $5 to $10 per car.
Check out our searchable table below to see if one is near you. DriveInMovie.com also maintains a listing of drive-ins.
Next, here are some hacks to make sure you get the most out of your drive-in theater experience.
Tips to Help You Have a Blast At Your Local Drive-In Movie Theater
I know what you’re thinking: “What could be so difficult about putting a car in park and watching a dang screen?”
Well, it’s not difficult. But if you want to be comfortable and have as much fun as possible, here are eight tips for your drive-in experience, courtesy of patrons and staff at the Lakeland, Florida-based Silver Moon Drive-In Theater.
Check with your drive-in before you go for location-specific updates.
1. Get There Early and Grab a Spot Near the Exit
As both a cheaper and socially safer alternative to the traditional movieplex , the drive-in has regained some popularity. The Silver Moon’s website specifically asks you to try to get there early.
One, you won’t have to sit in a long line of cars and burn that precious gas. And two, you can snag a parking space close to the exit so you avoid the slow-moving caravan after the double feature.
2. Bring Your Own Radio and Extra Batteries
Here’s the scene: You’re out with the guy of your dreams, who is totally impressed with your choice of a classic date night. But when the movie’s over, you turn the key to start your car and hear that dreaded clicking noise. Your battery is dead.
Don’t let this happen to you; bring a portable radio with extra batteries. You have to stream the movie’s audio through a radio, and using your car radio will drain the battery.
Also, if you plan to set up chairs in your pickup bed or behind your vehicle, you’ll need a portable radio to hear the movie anyway.
Alternatively, you can recharge your car battery by turning on your car every half hour or so and letting it run for a few minutes.
3. Bring Bug Spray
Bugs are an annoying part of life in the summertime.
You’ll be outside for a few hours — whether you’re sitting outside on your lawn chairs or just in your car with the windows rolled down — so pack that bug spray to send the pests packing.
4. Plan for a Full Evening
Check your local drive-in’s website or call ahead when planning your movie night. Most offer deals for double features for a single ticket price. That’s a full night of entertainment, so you might want to bring the kids’ pajamas and pillows in case they fall asleep before the final show.
Many drive-ins do not allow outside food. Call before you go to ask if you can bring your own snacks.
5. Wear Comfy Clothes
Here’s another drive-in advantage: Nobody will judge what you’re wearing.
Break out your pajamas for an extra comfy drive-in experience. Or dress up like one of the Avengers.
6. Bring Cash, Just in Case
Remember when people actually paid for stuff with those green paper thingies?
Drive-ins dredge up feelings of nostalgia for much simpler times. That might mean simpler times for your wallet as well. Bring some cash just in case.
Now that you’re a drive-in expert, all you need is a cherry red 1950s convertible and you’re ready to hit the theater. Just kidding.
Methodology: We used Google Map’s API to collect data for every drive-in listed in the United States and verified the ones that are opened or plan to be open during the summer of 2023.
Alex Mahadevan is a former data journalist at The Penny Hoarder. Multimedia Content Creator Chris Zuppa provided data analysis and updates for this article.