If you are lucky enough to have had the experience of piling into a car, popping the trunk, and channel surfing for the movie sound before settling in for the double feature, you know what sort of classic movie nostalgia comes at the drive-in. It’s as American as apple pie and baseball. And just in case you need reminded of how amazing drive-in movie theaters are, take a look at these beauties!

The sad truth is, with a declining audience and a market who craves high resolution images, drive-ins are struggling to find the coin to make the estimated $70,000 upgrades for stronger projection bulbs and digital projectors. In fact, the needed upgrade has caused a fall in drive-in establishments. As of March, 2014 there were only 348 drive-in movie theaters in the US as compared to the more than 2,400 drive-ins in 1980.

So, how are these iconic establishments to pull through in today’s digital revolution without going dark? Companies like Honda, Mashable, and Hagerty are getting serious of drive-in prevention by collaborating with movie enthusiasts and encouraging local business support via social media.

Mashable collaborated with Honda in 2013 to create Project Drive-In. Throughout the national campaign, people could help spread the word about drive-in preservation using hashtag #savethedrivein, encouraged people to see a movie at their local drive-in, and people were able to vote which drive-ins would receive upgraded projectors donated by Honda.

Family night at the drive in

Photo by Hagerty.com

Also this past July, Hagerty hosted a nationwide “bring back family night at the drive-in” photo contest. Classic car owners and their families were instructed to cruise to their local drive-in with their cars dressed based on the year of their car, and share their drive-in family photo on Facebook. Raised preservation and it looked like a great time to us!

Some theaters like Blue Fox in Well Harbor, WA and The Family Drive-In in Stephens City, VA have found ways to still generate large summer audiences on their own by offering other amenities like yard sales, go-karts, arcades, and even restaurants.

drive in movie theaters
Photos from Stephens City Drive in Facebook and Blue Fox Facebook

While some drive-ins are still trying to raise upgrading funds, some theaters have already made the switch to digital and are thriving, like the Delsea Drive-In Theatre in Vineland, NJ. Built in 1949, Delsea is the state’s last standing drive-in theater. Worth the drive if you are in the area!

Give high res. a rest and support slightly fuzzy (but still amazing) screens at your local drive-in! This handy database will help you find one in your corner of the world.

 

PS If you go check out a drive-in, we’d love to see your photos! Please post them in the comments below.

19 Comments

19 thoughts on “Reviving the American Drive-In”

  1. LAETITIA BALL

    No drive-in’s left in South Africa unfortunately. Your piece revived some very good memories as my late husband and I did some serious courting there fifty years ago and enjoyed our car picnics with the resultant offspring. Keep doing what you’re doing – reviving the good things of the past. Your knowledge is astounding.

  2. Connie

    In Piedmont, Missouri, there is still a drive in theatre that is open in the late spring through late summer months. Many people who camp at Sam A Baker State Park make a trip to the drive in part of their camping experience. Check it out!

  3. Steve

    Mike we still have a drive in here in Denver, ita just a couple miles up the road. Hope that we can save more as it is a good memory of times gone by

  4. Double D

    We still have one in McHenry, IL. Saved last year and upgraded to digital. Was always known as “The Finger Bowl” to us locals. You can figure it out.

  5. Mike Hall

    I remember going to the drive in when I was a kid and playing on the playground during intermission. As a teenager taking my date and all of the fun things involved with that. As an adult in the mid 80’s I became a theatre manager and operated drive ins around the great state of Iowa. To the concession stand for a ice cold cherry coke, the smell of hot buttered popcorn permeated the air. And yes The sounds of honking cars and car speakers crackling throughout the lot. Oh the memories. Bring them back!!!!

  6. Robert Vashaw

    I live in Commerce City Colorado it’s in Denver metro. We have the 88 drive-in on 88th Ave. and Rosemary. It’s still open and shows a really good movies.
    The Denver Merchandise Mart on I 25 and 58th Ave. north of downtown Denver just installed a drive-in movie theater screen in a huge parking lot and they have been showing drive-in movies all summer.
    We must be lucky.

  7. charles mcgee

    The drive in was actually invented near Philadelphia in Camden NJ, surprisingly at the time the novelty of it wore off within 18 months and the original builder sold the property at a loss but the new owner added play areas, more rest rooms and a full scale restaurant and made great success. Interesting less than a 1/4 of a mile away was a car roller coaster that was basically a car with it’s wheels confined to a rail system on a roller coaster layout ( very dangerous ). We still have several drive-in’s near Philadelphia left my personal favorite is in Orwigsburg pa north of Allentown pa, it has been there since 1938 and literally nothing has changed, single screen but now in car audio via fm transmitter.

  8. Judith j. Eisenbacher

    Hi, there was a drive in put up near Sp. Lake , Ia a few years back and it was soooo neat to see as I grew up in the era of drive ins and car hops that put the little trays with food on your car’s door, kids played outside until the noon or 6pm town whistle’s blew to tell you to get home for dinner or supper. Life was simple, generally safer /less complicated with LOTS of great memories!!!! :) My daughter, grandkids and I just visited your site at Le Claire two weekends ago so can cross that off of my ‘bucket’ list!!!!! HA..

  9. Kathleen Sawicki

    Many fond memories of drive-ins in Chicago Area – Starlight, Bel-Air and Double…and who in their lifetime hasn’t at least once driven off at the end, forgetting to take the speaker out of the car window!

  10. Bryan Ilyankoff

    The Blue Fox Drive-In is just south of Oak Harbor, Washington off of Highway 20. There is no such place as “Well Harbor”. Please fix that in your blog. The Blue Fox is a fantastic drive-in which is open year-round and features good-old drive-in food. I definitely would recommend that drive-in even If you are out of town.

  11. David D.

    I really like your show watch it all the time.. I give your article a five star review, very informative and interesting… I live close to your Nashville Tennessee store live in Bowling Green KY home of Corvettes also close to Mammoth Cave…But haven’t made it to your store but I am sure I will… Keep up the good work, stay as you are, friendly, kind, helping,and just a great personality…. And care Mike Hope that our paths cross soon, I would really like to meet you??

    1. Sarah Buckholtz Post Author

      Hey neighbor! We hope to see you in person at the Nashville shop soon. Try to come see the place all decorated for the holidays! You never when Mike will be hanging out, so take and chance and come pick!

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