Entertainment

Check Out These Drive-In Theaters and Experiences Near Atlanta

Just pull in, and pull out your popcorn.

Starlight Drive-In
Starlight Drive-In | J.C. Burns/Flickr
Starlight Drive-In | J.C. Burns/Flickr

Drive-ins are no longer just an “if you know, you know” retro-themed date that you save for the special people that you meet in life. In 2020, they’re practically the norm. This year, tried and true drive-in movie theaters have enjoyed a resurgence in support, and new ones have risen to prominence as well. The drive-in concept has even spread into Atlanta’s creative communities outside of cinema, which has led to some of the most innovative, memorable, and safe events this summer, from Drive Thru ATL’s outdoor art exhibition to Travis Porter’s 10-year anniversary parking lot concert in June. 

As the release of Tenet tries to lure the public back into movie theatre recliners, let’s not rush to our nearest big-box theater without honoring the retro style of entertainment that became a safer alternative and brought much-need joy and entertainment during such a bleak year. Here is all you need to know about Atlanta’s best drive-in theaters and experiences.

Plaza Theatre

Poncey-Highland
With theaters closing across the country due to COVID-19 earlier this year, independent theatres like Plaza Theatre were at risk. But Ponce de Leon’s famous movie house answered the challenges of 2020 with pure grit and mass innovation. In addition to hosting virtual screenings on its website, Plaza also switched gears in May and started offering drive-in film screenings at both the original Plaza location and Dad’s Garage. Since then, the theater has shown cult classic throwbacks like Chopping Mall and Night of the Living Dead and even premiered films like John Lewis: Good Trouble. If expanding your cinematic repertoire with critically acclaimed works and obscure films of the past, then Plaza Theatre demands your attention.

The Parking Lot Concert

College Park
So far, Atlanta’s best concerts this year have been different, to say the least. In years prior, they boasted superstar rappers, bands, and singers at local venues like the Masquerade or the Tabernacle, but this year, they’ve been appropriately smaller scale, with beloved local acts and general admission pits traded for parking lot spaces. Yes, even the music industry is dipping into drive-in experiences, and the Parking Lot Concert has been one of the frontrunners. It’s already got epic shows like Travis Porter’s 10-year anniversary concert and A Town Bash under its belt this year -- and it’s showing now signs of stopping, with a K. Michelle concert as well as an A Town Bash sequel lined up over the coming months.

The Springs Cinema & Taphouse

Sandy Springs
Another independent theater-turned-drive-in is the Springs Cinema & Taphouse on the northside. In June, the spot began showing family friendly throwbacks like Back to the Future and The Goonies as well as more recent favorites like The Avengers and The Greatest Showman. It’s a great move for those with little ones, and it’s drink menu also makes Springs Cinema & Taphouse the drive-in for those 21 and up. With 12 local and craft beers on tap and signature handcrafted drinks like their Springs Margarita, you’ll have everything you need to get just as lit as Springs’ massive drive-in screen. 

The Drive-In Concert Series

College Park
Another drive-in concert company that has made lemonade out of lemons is the Drive-In Concert Series. By catering to a crowd that’s more Bell Biv Devoe than “ATL HOE!,” it has become a social distancing solution to live music for those who live for live comedy, classic R&B, ’90s hip-hop, and even gospel. Yeah, that is a broad range to cover, but the Drive-In Concert Series does it with finesse. Having already hosted a COVID-19 sensible live music event featuring the legends Bell Big Devoe and Jagged Edge, the concert series now looks to bring the spirit of the popular live-streamed #VERZUZ battles to life with an in-person showdown between Mystikal and Goodie Mob, with support from DJ Mannie Fresh and DJ Jelly, respectively. It’s also got a recurring Sunday gospel concert series set to start in September.

Starlight Drive-In

Thomasville Heights
This is the OG. Since 1949, this Moreland Avenue drive-in has welcomed movie-goers to see the latest and greatest movies, and although most drive-in theatres across the country have disappeared altogether, Starlight remains strong. Throughout the pandemic, it’s been one of the only places to go to see new box office releases, but like its newfound competition, it’s been showing plenty of previously released films as well, from Gremlins to Get Out. It’s probably one of the safest theatres that you’ll be able to see the highly-anticipated Tenet at, and what’s honestly even more impressive is that you can catch one of their double features -- like the current Marvel package featuring The New Mutants and Black Panther -- by just paying its already modest admission.

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Joshua Robinson is an Atlanta-based contributor for Thrillist who can’t wait to celebrate the life and work of Chadwick Boseman at Atlanta’s great drive-ins. Follow him on Instagram at @roshjobin.