Drive-in movie theater gallery

It's the 75th anniversary of one of my favorite institutions, the drive-in movie theater, and to celebrate, Wired has a gallery of user-submitted photos of drive-ins around the country. Shown here, my favorite, "Apache Drive-In Theater" by R. Svirskas, "The Apache Drive-In Theater in Globe, Arizona. It's the last single-screen in the state." Link


  1. Years ago I spent a wonderful night at a campground that was right beside a small drive-in. I had my dinner by my tent and then, as the sun was setting, walked 20 feet and sat in the dirt with my back against a speaker post and watched “Unforgiven”. It was a warm July evening and I remember it like it was yesterday.

    Lots of great memories of going to drive-ins. There are so few left.

  2. all you need is a 16mm print, an old projector, a summer night and the side of a building

  3. I’m lucky enough to have a mildly successful drive-inn in my area. Theres something magic about those things. Nothing makes a crappy movie more palatable than drinking beers in your car.

  4. There’s actually 3 Drive-In theaters within 30 miles of here. One outlasted the mall theatre, so for awhile, the drive-in was the only place to see the latest releases. They’re running Indy 4 and Iron Man as a double feature this week.

  5. #2 …and a good lawyer when the legal pitbulls come after you for the illegal public performance.

    Am I the only one who has a strange desire to race into that screen at 88 mph?

  6. It’s not quite a drive-in, but for you OC types, the Fox Theatre in Fullerton (a sister of the Chinese and Egyptian theatres in Hollywood) shows a free movie on its parking-side wall every now and then. You don’t get to bring your car, but you can set up a picnic table and chat to the locals.:P Next up is E.T. at 8 pm on the 19th. I went to see Beetlejuice there- it’s as close to a drive-in experience as I ever got.

  7. I had the good fortune of having a grandfather who ran a drive in theater in Atlanta. He actually lived on the lot, first beneath the screen and then in a house that overlooked the two screens. We used to sit on the teardrops (the footings for the speakers) and watch the films. We would ride a little homemade moped up and down the rows of bumps that faced the screen. We would walk down to the concession stand and fill an old industrial size mayo jar with ice and coke and bring it back to the house for lunch. We would (stupidly) climb the back of the screens. We would stand on chairs so that we could serve customers soda at the concession stand. We would make pizzas and hot dogs. We would help spool the film and watch from the projection booth. In sum, we would have a wonderful, magical time when we visited my grandparents.

  8. Re: the #2 and #5 “illegal public performance” thread: actually, I do exactly what #2 is describing, except I *do* license the movies through Swank, the last 16MM distributor in the states. So we’re actually giving Caesar his due.

    Last weekend we showed “Caddyshack” at the local driving range (we show the movies at different locations every time), and even got to drive the ball-cart around under fire. Which continues the proud tradition of drive-in gimmicks.

    Both my east-coast outfit and the west-coast outfit have been Boinged before, just google “guerilla drive-in” to see ’em! (I’m the “West Chester” one.

    Thanks for these photos, Cory!

  9. If you’re in Philadelphia any Tuesday evening this summer, the Lawn Chair Drive-In shows great, classic obscure films (both good and bad) in the park. This week, it’s Brian DePalma’s classic badfilm Phantom of the Paradise.
    Lawnchairs, popcorn, and free movies. You can’t get any better than that.

  10. We are lucky enough to live near the canview drive in in Niagara. When Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull openned a couple of weeks back, the wife and I took the kids to see it at the drive in. They had a great time and I was glad to share the drive-in experience with them.

  11. Sputnik! Awesome! I can’t believe we haven’t connected before. The West Chester Guerilla Drive-In is just about 10 miles west of your Lawn Chair Drive-In.

    Us Internet types have been doing the portable drive-in thing for, like five years, and we thought we were the granddaddies of the movement, but you’ve been doing this for TWENTY YEARS?

    Teach me, master!

  12. The first time my wife and I had sex was in a drive-in theater in Chicago. It was 1970. 2 years before we got married. I remember that the feature that night was “Night of the Living Dead” and though we didn’t see more than a few minutes worth of the film I think I got my money’s worth on that date. They tore it down in ’76 to make way for a shopping mall. It was like losing a little piece of myself.

  13. If you’ve got kids, and there’s a drive-in anywhere near you, you owe them the experience. The few that are left actually do quite nicely. The last one I was at had free WiFi, for heaven’s sake. First run movies, cheap snack bar. Pack a picnic, let the kids run around and play frisbee while it’s light out. When it’s dark put them in their pajamas, give em a pillow, and if they fall asleep in the middle, no big deal.

    As a kid I remember begging my dad to take us to go see MegaForce at the drive-in, knowing full well that Porky’s was playing on the other screen and periodic trips to the restroom/snackbar would be in order. These days I don’t let mine out of my site :)!

  14. we had 2 drive in movies still running in flint michigan, each with 2 screens.

    I haven’t lived there in 4 years so i’m not sure how they’re doing but i did get my drive in fix about 2 summers ago while visitig.

  15. Hello All,
    Just outside of Detroit was the Gratiot drive-in. That’s the drive-in that was made famous by a photo in the late 1950’s. There was a playground beneath the screen with a small carousel which by that time had to be pushed by the kids to rotate.
    It was customary for people to begin honking their car horns to try and prompt the start of the evenings program.
    Such innocent fun.

  16. Three years ago a friend with a large trimaran sailed it from Long Beach out to Catalina Island for Buccaneer Days. Saturday night we hoisted a screen, plugged in the VGA projector and speakers, and provided sail-in movies for those aboard and those who positioned their dinghies nearby! Good times – it’s hard to imagine BAD memories associated with a drive-in experience!

  17. Many years ago when I was in college, they would project movies on the side of the union building. One time it was Urgh! A Music War, and right in the middle of The Cramps doing Tear It Up, some sort of bible-fellowship/prayer group dressed in their Stepford-finery came out of the union.

    Just in time to see a twenty-foot Lux Interior with his leather (maybe they were rubber) pants rolled down to display the top of his George W., grunting and fellating a microphone.

    Best looks of horror evar!

  18. That reminds me. I still gotta see Indiana Jones while it’s still playing at the Highway 18 theater.

  19. There’s a fairly successful 14-screen drive-in theater in South Florida; I haven’t been in years, but they always have first-run movies.

  20. Up the road from the small town I grew up in was a drive-in called The Crest. The back of the screen facing the road had the slogan ‘See the Best at The Crest’ and a wonderful painted mountain outlined in neon. As a child I saw only one film there, Snow White or something similar. Later, it became a porn theater, which was odd.
    They finally tore it down and there’s a Catholic church there now. If they only knew.

  21. wow, such great anecdotes. I’m really jonesing now. I have to look into whether there are any drive-ins left in this province. The guerilla drive-in thing sounds wonderful.

    I totally remember being at one where we could see 2 films at once. I was also a fan of trying to find a spot outside the fence to watch from. Bad..yes, yes but sort-of in the spirit of the whole drive-in thing. I was such a delinquent.

    @ #7 posted by pablopk
    I can see it all so clearly. What a great experience.

  22. As a child I used to visit my grandparents in Globe for weeks during the summer and my grandfather would take me to this theater for fireworks on the 4th of July and just about any Clint Eastwood film that wasn’t too violent. I remember seeing bot Any Which Way you Can and Bronco Billy once in the 1980s. I am glad to see the Apache isn’t torn down yet. Globe is kind of an oddball treasure since it really isn’t a touristy place but if you want a real slice of Arizona was really like in teh 20th century, this mining town is it. I plan on visiting the next time I am back. I miss you Tata!

  23. In 2005 this became a new hobby of mine.

    I’ve been to four drive ins “near” the chicago area including:

    The Cascade (West Chicago)
    Notable Item: Pizza Puff, Frequent visitor card. (I think I filled nearly three or four of them but haven’t cashed them in yet).

    Mchenry Outdoor Theater (McHenry, Illinois)
    Notable Items: Multichoice video game that has Galaga on it and a funky mechanical boxing game. Also a grating Wolfman Jack impersonator on their voice over promotions.

    49er Drive in (Valparaiso, Indiana)
    Notable Items: Corn dog nuggets. The national anthem is played before the movies.

    Route 34 Drive in (Earlsville, Illinois)
    Notable Items: Cartoons before the main features. Green River soda.

    When I lived in Washington State I visited the

    Valley Six (with at least one screen falling apart)
    Notable Item: Free recharge if you kill your battery.

    The Skyline Drive In Theater
    Notable Item: Chili

    I found almost consistently that when I go to see a blockbuster playing with a movie I kind of want to see. The blockbuster is disappointing and the kindof movie was actually pretty decent.

    I have met friends at various locations in separate cars but never taken a so called date to one of these. I wonder if there is a drive in etiquette book.

  24. Incredible! I’d never expected to see the tiny town I live in documented on a site that covers such international topics.

    If you ever come through Globe, Az in the Spring/Summer, make sure to stop by the Drive-in. I’ve grown up visiting this place, and it really is a wonderful experience.

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