A drive-in cinema does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s an outdoor venue with a large screen that friends, families and couples drive to, park up, and watch a great movie from their car. Audiences hear the film by tuning their car radios to a set frequency.
By the time drive-in cinemas became a cultural phenomenon, the novelty of watching movies outdoors had long been established. But it was 1950s America – a period in time subject to plenty of nostalgia and homage - in which they really took off and became iconic of that era.
A classic example of why drive-in cinemas are synonymous with 50s America is the film Grease (1978), where Danny and Sandy go to a drive-in to watch the classic horror film The Blob (1958).
By the end of the 1950s there were over 4,000 drive-in cinemas scattered across the USA. This is largely due to car technology reaching a point where car-heaters and air conditioning became standard – allowing for drive-in cinemas to stay open all year round.
But with the emergence of video rentals and land sales in the 70s and 80s, drive-in cinemas suffered a heavy decline.
So why now, in 2017, are drive-in cinemas on the rise again?
1. The car is the star
Firstly, people love an excuse to get in the car with friends and family and go somewhere new or do something different. So the social aspect of driving plays a huge role in how cars and cinema work together in such harmony to create this experience.
And in the age of home streaming services, drive-in cinemas present the perfect reason to get out of the house, and hit the road.
2. Response to multiplex dominance
Thriving independent cinema experiences such as Secret Cinema are proof that people still want the community spirit of cinema going that may have been lost somewhat to the standardised experience of the multiplexes.
The revival of drive-in cinemas in the UK epitomises this trend, while appealing more to car enthusiasts.
3. The chance to watch classic films on the big screen
Additionally, drive-in screenings present the opportunity for fans of much-loved classics, such as Grease (1978) and Dirty Dancing (1987), to come together and celebrate the film – often in fancy dress or with their classic car from the era.
Drive-in cinema screenings are being held all over the country this year.
Here’s some of the drive-in cinemas and events we know of in 2017 that are worth planning a road trip for:
Billed as the largest UK drive-in cinema, Moonlight is worth the road trip to Kent for this Bank Holiday weekend with nightly screenings of the car-packed Fast & Furious 8 (2017) film.
If you can’t make it this time, don’t worry, Moonlight have nightly screenings of the latest films throughout the year.
Find out how it works and book online here.
For those who are lucky enough to have tickets, Glastonbury Festival have announced a new drive-in cinema themed area for 2017, featuring 100 classic American and Cuban cars in front of a huge screen.
Audiences can tune in via Bluetooth through the car and sit back and enjoy a selection of hand-picked films.
Riverside Drive-in Cinema
From this year, those up north can make the trip to Middlesbrough for a monthly drive-in screening at the Riverside Football Stadium.
The next screening is Star Wars: Force Awakens which is appropriately timed for May the 4th.
Book tickets online here.
Here are some handy tips for getting the best possible experience from a drive-in cinema:
1. Get there early
Aim to get there half an hour early to avoid queues and get your food and drinks orders in
2. Find out if you can bring your own food and drink
This can save you good money if you can pack a picnic to bring with you. There’ll always be popcorn and hotdogs on site if not.
3. Make sure your radio works
You can only hear the film by tuning in through your car radio. So if your car radio doesn’t create the best audio, you might want to think about going in someone else’s car.
4. Take cash with you
Depending on the venue, you might not be able to use your card to buy refreshments. So take some cash out just in case.
5. Check the age rating of the film if you’re taking the kids.
While drive-in cinemas are great for family nights out, film classification rules still apply and you could be refused entry if your children are under age.
So keep an eye out for a drive-in cinema screening near you. They’re great fun and full of nostalgia, so long may their resurgence continue. Check out our blog page for more road trip advice and events.