The 14 Coolest Drive-In Movie Theaters in America

iStock/smodj
iStock/smodj

On June 6, 1933 the first patented drive-in movie theater opened in Camden, New Jersey, and the phenomenon only grew from there. At the peak of their popularity, America was home to approximately 4000 active drive-ins, but that number now hovers around the 355 mark.

The expensive move to digital projection and the rising costs of land hurt a lot of drive-in theater owners, forcing many of them to pack up their snack bars and close up shop. However, much like record stores and independent bookstores, drive-in theaters are in the midst of a comeback—and have upgraded their amenities to appeal to a wider demographic. Stale popcorn and overpriced sodas have been replaced with gourmet meals and alcoholic beverages at some theaters, while others have invested in digital technology. Dogs are welcome at many drive-ins around the country, and some theaters even offer camping facilities, so that your night out doesn't have to end with the credits roll. In many cases, it’s cheaper for a family to spend an evening at the drive-in than it is their local cineplex.

With the summer season upon us, and National Drive-In Movie Day happening on June 6, we've rounded up a list of some of America's coolest drive-ins. What exactly makes them cool, you might be wondering? It’s more than just an attention-grabbing Art Deco sign (though that helps). It’s theaters that offer mini golf, beer gardens, locally sourced foods, a lineup of classic films (not just first-run features), and even a giant potato sitting in the back of a pick-up truck as a landmark. Here are some of our favorite drive-ins across America.

1. Four Brothers Drive-In // Amenia, New York

Generic photo of a car at a drive-in theater
iStock/Darwin Brandis

In 2015, Four Brothers opened in upstate New York, less than two hours from New York City. By mixing modern amenities with retro touches, it redefines what a drive-in can be. From spring to fall they show movies every night. Known as a “boutique theatre,” the drive-in films tend to be family-friendly, but they also sometimes screen “cultural indie films.” On Throwback Thursdays, for example, they screen three films, including one ’80s classic. The drive-in includes an EV charger, food trucks, mini golf, and Hotel Caravana, an airstream moviegoers can rent overnight. The theater's concessions break the mold, too, in serving locally sourced foods and housemade items like rice pudding, salmon burgers, shakes made with Nutella or wine, affogatos, and a full craft cocktail menu.

2. The Mahoning Drive-In Theater // Lehighton, Pennsylvania

Located about 80 miles northwest of Philadelphia, Mahoning’s tagline is “where film never dies”—and they mean it. Instead of showing first-run flicks, they opt to do weekend-long themed festivals. Zombie Fest takes place over three nights and screens cult horror films. (You can camp overnight.) Second Chance Weekend, meanwhile, features critically panned films that deserve a closer look, like pairing Howard the Duck with Masters of the Universe. Bite Night brings 35mm prints of Jaws and Jurassic Park, and July brings Christmas films.

3. Blue Starlite Mini Boutique Drive-In // Austin, Texas and Minturn, Colorado

When the Blue Starlite opened in 2009, it became “the world’s one and only mini urban boutique drive-in movie theater.” They operate two locations: a year-round version in Austin, and a seasonal theater in Colorado. The appeal of the boutique experience is that it creates a sort of intimacy instead of piling hundreds of cars into an abandoned parking lot. Their three areas hold up to 50 cars, or hundreds of pedestrians. They screen “childhood favorites” like the original Star Wars trilogy, and the once held a Burt Reynolds festival. October is usually dedicated to horror films, and December features holiday films.

In 2016, the Starlite expanded to Minturn, a small Colorado town in the Rockies, not far from Vail. At 7898 feet, the Starlite might be the highest drive-in theater in the country. Like its sister theater, it alsos screen classic films, like The Goonies, Back to the Future, and a Grease sing-along while moviegoers eat s’mores and local donuts.

4. Greenville Drive-In Outdoor Cinema // Greenville, New York

The Greenville Drive-in, which is located about two-and-a-half hours from New York City, opened in 1959 but has since evolved with the times. Their snack shack sells locally sourced foods, and the Projectionists’ Beer Garden serves local brews. The double features focus on ‘80s and ‘90s films like Footloose, Dirty Dancing, Office Space, and Dazed and Confused, and they sometimes schedule live music. They say they like to “partner with emerging filmmakers to provide them with a space to screen and discuss their work.”

5. Doc’s Drive-In Theatre // Buda, Texas

In 2018, Doc’s opened in Buda, Texas, which is located about 15 miles southwest of Austin. Doc’s offers gourmet concessions: pretzels with beer cheese, nachos with shredded brisket, chips and salsa, pulled pork sandwiched, fancy hot dogs, waffles, and and on-site bar Mama Merlot’s. The two screens pair first-run films with classics like The Birds, The Breakfast Club, and The Dark Crystal, and some head-scratching combos like Risky Business and The Meg (though we're not complaining).

6. North Bay Mobile Drive-In // Novato, California

In the past decade, a group of people have created what’s known as Mov Mob or guerilla drive-ins in which a “drive-in theater” pop ups at different locations in a city. The North Bay Mobile Drive-In (located about 25 miles north of San Francisco) uses a car to project the movies onto a wall of the shuttered Old Hamilton Theater. They screen free movies every other week, year-round. Most of the films are classics—movies like A Fish Called Wanda, Spaceballs, The Day the Earth Stood Still—and come with a 20-minute pre-show of trailers and cartoons. They also offer concessions and a raffle.

7. Wellfleet Drive-In Theatre // Wellfleet, Massachusetts

The Wellfleet Drive In welcomes its guests to their outdoor theater before the start of their feature movie
iStock/Kirkikis

The Wellfleet Drive-In opened in 1957 and remains Cape Cod’s only drive-in—one where you can at oysters while watching double-feature first-run films. The theater’s located within a complex of a flea market, a mini golf course, and restaurants. In the flea area, you can drink beer, eat breakfast sandwiches, and order soft serve, root beer floats, and hard ice cream from the Dairy Bar. When the summer season is not in full swing, the theater screens lots of retro classics like Beetlejuice and Jaws (which was shot not too far away on Martha's Vineyard).

8. Bengies // Middle River, Maryland

At 52 feet high and 120 feet wide, Bengies boasts the largest outdoor movie theater screen in America. Bengies opened in 1956 near Baltimore and shows triple features on weekends for one price. On Memorial Day weekend, they screen movies from dusk until dawn. The concession menu includes craft sodas, egg rolls, hot dogs, burgers, donuts, cotton candy, and a pickle on a stick. In between movies, they screen classic cartoons and vintage trailers. And while it can get cold in Maryland, they offer in-car heaters so that they can stay open during colder months.

9. Blue Fox Drive-In Theater // Oak Harbor, Washington

Opened in 1959, Blue Fox screens first-run movies but also has a GoKart track that operates on weekends, as well as arcade games. And in 1989, Danny DeVito stopped by. As far as concessions, they offer Philly cheesesteaks, gluten-free items, 50 kinds of candy, and Big Gulp-like mugs of soda aptly named Really Big Mugs. Choose between a 64-ounce or 100-ounce mug; refills are only $3.75.

10. Coyote Drive-In // Fort Worth, Texas

The backdrop for the Coyote, a four-screen drive-in, is downtown Fort Worth—so you have quite the view. The Coyote Canteen features a large menu of pizza, hot dogs, Frito pie, kobe sliders, churros, and an even longer list of wines, ciders, and beers, including local ones. For the kids, they can play at a playground, and adults can have fun in their own playground, which is called a beer patio.

11. Spud Drive-In // Driggs, Idaho

Idaho likes to celebrate its potato-farming heritage, even at the drive-in. The Spud closed in 2011 but is back up up and running again, much to the delight of locals. Located in the rugged Teton Valley, they show first-run movies next to a pick-up truck carrying a giant potato. They sometimes have concerts, and motorcamping.

12. The Swap Shop // Fort Lauderdale, Florida

With 14 screens, The Swap Shop in Fort Lauderdale has the most screens of any drive-in theater in the country, and they have late shows that start at midnight. It’s not only the largest drive-in but it’s also the largest daily flea market in the world. Come to shop but stay to see first-run movies. The drive-in opens every night and screens one movie per ticket—so no double features here.

13. Shankweiler's Drive-In Theater // Orefield, Pennsylvania

What’s cool about Shankweiler’s is that they opened in 1934, making them the state’s first drive-in and the second drive-in theater in the U.S. And unlike the first drive-in, Shankweiler’s is still open—making it the longest operating drive-in in America. They screen first-run movies and vend standard concessions like funnel cakes, ice cream novelties, and BBQ.

14. Falconwood Park Drive-In // Omaha, Nebraska

Falconwood is the Omaha metro area’s last drive-in, which makes it all the more special. Located in a sprawling 26-acre park, the drive-in (or walk-in, as pedestrians are allowed) screens new and old films, including classics like Die Hard and the original The Lion King. During screenings, moviegoers can order from a food truck and a bar. The park offers sand volleyball, badminton, a vintage Ferris wheel, and a rustic lodge. Every summer, the park hosts the Hullabaloo Music Fest. Unfortunately, because of severe flooding, the drive-in season has been delayed. But they should be back on schedule later this summer.

50 Fun Facts About Sesame Street

Getty Images
Getty Images

On November 10, 1969, television audiences were introduced to Sesame Street. In the 50 years since, the series has become one of television's most iconic programs—and it's not just for kids.

1. The idea for Sesame Street came from one very simple question.

Publicity still of the Sesame Street Muppets taken to promote their record album, 'Sesame Country,' July 1, 1981
Children's Television Workshop, Courtesy of Getty Images

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the original idea for Sesame Street came about during a 1966 dinner party hosted by Joan Ganz Cooney, who was a producer at New York City's Channel 13, a public television station. Lloyd Morrisett, an experimental educator at the Carnegie Corporation, was one of Cooney's guests and asked her the question: "Do you think [television] can teach anything?" That query was a all it took to get the ball rolling on what would become Sesame Street.

2. Sesame Street almost wasn't Sesame Street at all.

When the idea for Sesame Street was first being talked about, the original title being discussed was 123 Avenue B. Eventually, that title was nixed for both being a real location in New York City that would place the show right across from Tompkins Square Park, and also for being too specific to New York City.

3. Kermit the Frog was an original cast member.

Kermit the Frog
PictureLake/iStock via Getty Images

Before he became the star of The Muppet Show (and the various Muppet movies), Kermit the Frog got his start as a main character on Sesame Street.

4. Kermit was very similar to his creator.

Most people considered Kermit the Frog to be an alter ego of creator Jim Henson.

5. Carol Burnett appeared on Sesame Street's first episode.


BY CBS TELEVISION - EBAY, PUBLIC DOMAIN, WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Guest stars have always been a part of the Sesame Street recipe, beginning with the very first episode. "I didn't know anything about [Sesame Street] when they asked me to be on," Carol Burnett told The Hollywood Reporter. "All I knew was that Jim Henson was involved and I thought he was a genius—I'd have gone skydiving with him if he'd asked. But it was a marvelous show. I kept going back for more. I think one time I was an asparagus."

6. Oscar the Grouch used to be orange.

Jim Henson decided to make him green before season two. How did the show explain the color change? Oscar said he went on vacation to the very damp Swamp Mushy Muddy and turned green overnight.

7. Cookie Monster isn't Cookie Monster's real name.

During a 2004 episode, Cookie Monster said that before he started eating cookies, his name was Sid.

8. C-3P0 and R2-D2 paid a memorable visit to Sesame Street.

In 1980, C-3PO and R2-D2 visited Sesame Street. They played games, sang songs, and R2-D2 fell in love with a fire hydrant.

9. Mr. Snuffleupagus has a first name.

It's Aloysius. Aloysius Snuffleupagus.

10. Ralph Nader appeared in an episode.

Ralph Nader stopped by in 1988 and sang "a consumer advocate is a person in your neighborhood."

11. Oscar the Grouch is partly modeled after a taxi driver.

A scene from 'Sesame Street'
Zach Hyman, HBO

Caroll Spinney said he based Oscar's voice on a cab driver from the Bronx who brought him to the audition.

12. In 1970, Ernie became a music star.

In 1970, Ernie reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the timeless hit "Rubber Duckie."

13. Count von Count isn't the only Count on Sesame Street.

One of Count von Count's lady friends is Countess von Backwards, who's also obsessed with counting but likes to do it backwards.

14. Afghanistan has its own version of Sesame Street.

Sesame Street made its Afghanistan debut in 2011 with Baghch-e-Simsim (Sesame Garden). Big Bird, Grover, and Elmo are involved.

15. Cultural taboos prevented Oscar and the Count from being a major part of Baghch-e-Simsim.

According to Muppet Wiki, Oscar the Grouch and Count von Count were minimized on Baghch-e-Simsim "due to cultural taboos against trash and vampirism."

16. Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul's Gus Fring played Big Bird's camp counselor.

Giancarlo Esposito in 'Breaking Bad'
Michele K. Short/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

Before Giancarlo Esposito was Breaking Bad's super intense Gus Fring, he played Big Bird's camp counselor Mickey in 1982. Thankfully, those episodes are available on YouTube.

17. The big in Bird Bird's name isn't a misnomer.

How big is Big Bird? 8'2".

18. Being that big of a bird requires a lot of feathers.

Sesame Street Characters (L-R) Big Bird, Elmo, Cookie Monster, and Abby Cadabby attend HBO Premiere of Sesame Street's The Magical Wand Chase at the Metrograph on November 9, 2017 in New York City
Slaven Vlasic, Getty Images for HBO

In order to craft Big Bird's iconic yellow suit, approximately 4000 feathers are needed.

19. Cookie Monster has an British cousin.

His name, appropriately, is Biscuit Monster.

20. South Africa's version of Sesame Street features an HIV-positive Muppet.

In 2002, the South African version of Sesame Street (Takalani Sesame) added an HIV-positive Muppet named Kami.

21. Kami has caused some political discord.

Six Republicans on the House Commerce Committee wrote a letter to PBS president Pat Mitchell warning that Kami was not appropriate for American children, and reminded Mitchell that their committee controlled PBS's funding.

22. "Guy Smiley" is just a stage name.

Sesame Street's resident game show host Guy Smiley was using a pseudonym. His real name was Bernie Liederkrantz.

23. The Count is really, really old.

The Count was born on October 9, 1,830,653 BCE—making him nearly 2 million years old. Try putting that many candles on a birthday cake!

24. Bert and Ernie have spent years explaining, and defending, their relationship.

Bert and Ernie have been getting questioned about their sexuality for years. Ernie himself, as performed by Steve Whitmire, has weighed in: “All that stuff about me and Bert? It’s not true. We’re both very happy, but we’re not gay."

A few years later, Bert (as performed by Eric Jacobson) answered the same question by saying, “No, no. In fact, sometimes we are not even friends; he can be a pain in the neck.”

25. Sesame Street's first season had a few superhero guest stars.

In the first season, both Superman and Batman appeared in short cartoons produced by Filmation. In one clip, Batman told Bert and Ernie to stop arguing and take turns choosing what to watch on TV. In another segment, Superman battled a giant chimp.

26. Originally, only Big Bird could see Snuffy.

In Sesame Street's third season, audiences were introduced to Mr. Snuffleupagus, Big Bird's BFF. There was only one problem: Big Bird (and, by extension, the audience) were the only people who were able to see Snuffy, leading the show's human stars to believe that Snuffy was an imaginary friend. It was a running joke that went on for nearly 15 years.

27. The decision to stage an episode where everyone finally met Snuffy came from a somewhat dark place.


Sesame Workshop

After 14 years of nobody but Big Bird being able to see Snuffy, Sesame Street's producers were confronted with some rather surprising information: There was a growing concern that the adult humans on the show not believing Snuffy existed might lead some children to believe that adults, in general, didn't always believe kids. This was particularly concerning to the show's producers when it came to cases of child abuse, where kids might be afraid that telling their parents would solve nothing. And so, Snuffy was finally introduced to the world!

28. Telly wasn't always Telly.

Telly was originally "Television Monster," a TV-obsessed Muppet whose eyes whirled around as he watched.

29. Sesame Street is home to the only non-human who has testified before Congress.

Photo of Elmo from 'Sesame Street'
iStock

According to Sesame Workshop, Elmo is the only non-human to testify before Congress. He lobbied for more funding for music education, so that "when Elmo goes to school, there will be the instruments to play."

30. Rumors once circulated that Sesame Street was planning to kill off Ernie.

In the early 1990s, soon after Jim Henson’s passing, a rumor circulated that Ernie would be killed off in order to teach children about death, as they'd done with Mr. Hooper. According to Snopes, the rumor may have spread thanks to New Hampshire college student Michael Tabor, who convinced his graduating class to wear “Save Ernie” beanies and sign a petition to persuade Sesame Workshop to let Ernie live. By the time Tabor was corrected, the newspapers had already picked up the story.

31. The Count wasn't always so nice.

Originally, Count von Count was more sinister. He could hypnotize and stun people.

32. Most Muppets only have four fingers.

According to Sesame Workshop, all Sesame Street's main Muppets have four fingers except Cookie Monster, who has five.

33. The episode featuring Mr. Hooper's funeral aired on Thanksgiving Day for a very particular reason.

The episode with Mr. Hooper's funeral aired on Thanksgiving Day in 1983. That date was chosen because families were more likely to be together at that time, in case kids had questions or needed emotional support.

34. Big Bird offered a gut-wrenching tribute to Jim Henson at the Sesame Street creator's memorial service.

Big Bird sang "Bein' Green" at Jim Henson's memorial service.

35. Israel's version of Sesame Street has its own version of Oscar the Grouch.

Oscar's Israeli counterpart is Moishe Oofnik, whose last name means “grouch” in Hebrew.

36. Cookie Monster evolved from a different snack-obsessed character.

Cookie Monster evolved from The Wheel-Stealer—a snack-pilfering puppet Jim Henson created to promote Wheels, Crowns and Flutes in the 1960s. This puppet later was seen eating a computer in an IBM training film and on The Ed Sullivan Show.

37. Nigeria's version of Cookie Monster isn't into cookies at all.

Nigeria's version of Cookie Monster eats yams. His catchphrase: "ME WANT YAM!"

38. Roosevelt Franklin was disliked by some parents, so was fired from Sesame Street.

Sesame Street's Roosevelt Franklin ran a school, where he spoke in scat and taught about Africa. Some parents hated him, so in 1975 he got the boot, only to inspire Gob Bluth’s racist puppet Franklin on Arrested Development 28 years later.

39. Roosevelt Franklin wasn't the only Muppet to get the boot.

Roosevelt Franklin isn't the only Muppet living on Abandoned Muppet Island. Harvey Kneeslapper, Professor Hastings, Don Music, and Bruno the Trashman are a few of the others who didn't make the cut.

40. Don Music's head-banging tendencies led to some at-home injuries.

The aforementioned Don Music was a frustrated composer who never seemed satisfied with the tunes he composed. As such, his musical sessions often ended with him banging his head on his piano keys in frustration. "The character, played by Richard Hunt, was abandoned because of complaints about his alarming tendencies toward self-inflicted punishment," author David Borgenicht wrote in his book, Sesame Street Unpaved. "Apparently, kids were imitating his head-banging at home."

41. The puppeteers have a few standard rules.

Because Sesame Street's puppeteers work in very close quarters throughout much of the day, Carmen Osbahr—who operates Rosita—told The Hollywood Reporter that "We have a few rules here: Always deodorant, never onions."

42. Puppeteering can be a dangerous job.

Sesame Street puppeteer Caroll Spinney operates Big Bird
Robert Furhing, via Tribeca Film

Legendary puppeteer Caroll Spinney, who operated both Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch from 1969 to 2018, has shared a couple of war stories about what it's like for the folks standing behind the boards. In a 2015 interview with Bullseye, he revealed that he cannot see out of Big Bird's costume (he has a monitor he watches instead). He also shared some tales about the one time he almost caught on fire ... and the other time he did. He explained:

"Suddenly I'm looking down inside [the costume] and I said, 'Something feels hot!' I looked down and I see an orange flame and it started getting long enough to go inside the suit, and I was like, 'Oh, my God.' I said, 'Hey, I'm on fire' ... One of the cameramen, Richie King, he saved my life. He went over and he patted the flame out with his hand."

43. The show has regularly tackled some touchy issues.

While Mr. Hooper's death is probably the most memorable incident of Sesame Street tackling a challenging issue for kids, it's hardly the only time. Over the years, the series has taught kids about racism, AIDS, and 9/11.

44. Sesame Street has inspired a lot of bizarre fan theories.

Sesame Street Muppets.
Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images

Kids are a curious sort, so it was only a matter of time before they started to ask questions about their favorite Sesame Street residents—like what kind of bird is Big Bird anyway? The invention of the internet, of course, has helped some of the more bizarre fan theories gain widespread interest and popularity. Like the rumor that the Count likes to snack on children.

45. There were never any plans to turn Cookie Monster into Veggie Monster.

In 2005, Sesame Street made healthy eating one of its main themes for the season—which led to some speculation that Cookie Monster might be trading in his cookies for something a bit more green and healthy. But these rumors were just that: rumors!

46. The show has racked up a ton of awards over the years.

Given the show's half-century of popularity, it's hardly surprising to learn that Sesame Street has racked up dozens of awards over the years. So far, it has earned 193 Emmy Awards, 10 Grammy Awards, and five Peabody Awards—and shows no signs of stopping there.

47. It's one of the America's longest-running scripted series.


Children's Television Workshop, Getty Images

At 50 years old, Sesame Street is one of the longest-running scripted series on television. Its main competition comes from soap operas like Guiding Light (which ran for 57 years before calling it quits in 2009), General Hospital (which has been on the air for 56 years, and counting), Days of Our Lives (55 years so far), and As the World Turns (which ended its 54-year run in 2010)

48. There are versions of Sesame Street all over the world.

According to Sesame Workshop, there are currently more than 150 different version of Sesame Street—in 70 different languages—being produced around the world.

49. Sesame Street is about to make history at the Kennedy Center Honors.

In December 2019, Sesame Street will receive a Kennedy Center Honor—making it the first TV show ever to earn the distinction.

50. Sesame Street is now a real street in New York City.

'Sesame Street' Muppets under a street sign that reads '123 Sesame Street'
Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

In early 2019, Sesame Street finally became a place in the real world. In honor of the show's 50th anniversary, and its impact on New York City in particular, the intersection of West 63rd Street and Broadway in Manhattan was rechristened as "Sesame Street."

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2012.

David Hasselhoff's Strange Connection to the Fall of the Berlin Wall

re:publica, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
re:publica, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Americans might know David Hasselhoff best as the star of pre-peak television series Knight Rider and Baywatch. But in Germany, he’s been a popular singing attraction since 1985, when his album Night Rocker became a sensation. In June 1989 Hasselhoff released Looking for Freedom, an album with a title track that seemed to speak directly to citizens in European countries seeking democracy. That track had been playing since 1988 in anticipation of the album’s release.

On November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall fell. Was it coincidence, or did Hasselhoff help incite a revolution?

In a new interview with Time, Hasselhoff takes no credit for that seismic change in Germany, despite the fact that some of the actor's fans have knitted the two memories—his popularity and the dissolution of the wall—together, leading some to believe he was partly responsible. Some of the same people who began chipping away at the wall dividing East and West Germany had been humming the song for months prior. Some have even told Hasselhoff his music helped inspire change. Others held up signs thanking him for the fall of the wall.

“You’re the man who sings of freedom,” a woman once told Hasselhoff, before asking for his autograph.

The wall, of course, came down rather abruptly, shortly after a premature announcement that East Germans could take advantage of relaxed travel restrictions, and Hasselhoff demurs when asked if he played a role. “I never ever said I had anything to do with bringing down the wall,” he told Time. “I never ever said those words ... There was the guy from Knight Rider singing a song about freedom. Knight Rider was sacred to everyone and hopefully we’ll bring it back as a movie. I was just in the right place at the right time with the right song. I was just a man who sang a song about freedom.”

After the wall fell, Hasselhoff was invited to sing on a crane hovering over its remains on New Year’s Eve in 1989, which you can witness in the video above. Hasselhoff recently returned to Berlin for another series of concerts to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the wall being torn down.

[h/t Time]

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