Since movie theaters closed their doors back in March, many of us have gotten all too used to streaming comfort films and new releases on 13-inch computer screens. But if you miss big screens and popcorn drenched in butter, there is a COVID-safe option — you just might have to plan a short road trip to your nearest drive-in theater.
The first drive-in theater (then called a park-in) opened in 1933, and by the '50s, approximately 4,000 were operating across the country. The creation of cable TV and indoor theaters took a toll on the industry, though, and by 2019, only 305 drive-ins still existed, according to U.S. News and World Report. But drive-in nostalgia is definitely having a moment: in recent years and even months, some shuttered theaters have reopened, and some new theaters have popped up in metropolises like New York City and even Walmart parking lots.
Right now, many films are still going straight to VOD or streaming sites, but lots of drive-ins are screening classics, double features, and the occasional new film in a safe, low risk environment. (In other words, yes, you can still watch Tenet on the big screen.)
Most drive-ins are located in small towns off of major highways, but no matter where you live, there is almost definitely a '50s-style theater less than two hours away. Here are some of the oldest, coolest, and most unique drive-ins from every part of the country — and what to know about each before you buy your ticket.