8 Drive-In Movie Theaters In and Around Los Angeles
Catch a flick the socially-distant way.
Drive-in theaters used to be a fabled relic of the past we knew (ironically) only from movies, where poodle-skirt-and-varsity-jacket-wearing teens from the ‘50s (and also John Travolta) would make out in convertible Thunderbirds under starry skies. By the time most of us got to our teenage years, drive-ins had gone the way of pay phones and cafeteria soda, and we were left crowding into multiplexes, fighting over the cup holder with a stranger under the breeze of recirculated A/C. Until COVID-19, that is.
Now, the drive-in is making a comeback as a socially-distanced way to catch a movie without catching Corona. Around LA, shuttered drive-ins have re-emerged, temporary venues have popped up, and an existing drive-in or two outside of city limits are suddenly on our radar thanks to the pandemic. You can read up on the policies for each spot on their respective websites, but know that all are following government regulations on social distancing and enforce the use of masks when you’re outside of your vehicle, and most require an FM radio to get audio. (It’s the thing on your dashboard you’ve never used before.) Read on for where you can watch a movie through your windshield, from Malibu to the IE.
This giant, outdoor South Bay swap-meet spot started morphing into a retro ‘50s-themed theater earlier this summer on Friday and Saturday nights, screening a single favorite film each evening -- from School of Rock to Grease. You can grab tix ahead of time on Eventbrite, or on site the night of the movie. And since you pay by the carload ($25 per vehicle), you won’t have to worry about hiding any friends in the trunk.
The historic hotel just launched a new pop-up drive-in-with-a-twist in its adjacent parking lot on Saturday nights. Presented by Women Under the Influence (WUTI), an org focused on promoting women-directed films, The Drive-In will feature movies that celebrate stories created by women, BIPOC, and members of the LGBTQ community with all ticket revenues donated to nonprofits. Tickets are $40 per car no matter the number of passengers hitching a ride with you and can be purchased ahead of time. Bonus: Moviegoers can order Mexican fare like street tacos and squash blossom quesadillas from the hotel’s onsite eatery Veranda Al Fresco via app.
The summer outdoor movie series pivoted (which happens to be the MVP word of 2020) to a drive-in-only offering this year to keep up with the times, offering flicks at the Americana at Brand in Glendale, Malibu’s King Gillette Ranch, and Brandeis Bardin Campus in Simi Valley in addition to venues in Ontario the OC. Look for a heavy rotation of ‘80s and ‘90s hits including upcoming screenings of The Breakfast Club, Love and Basketball, and The Big Lebowski. SFC brings in a serious lineup of food trucks, too, which you can check out online, and order ahead of time or when you get there. (Tickets, however, must be purchased in advance via the site.) To get in, you’ll have to pay between $20 to $35 per car depending on the venue plus $8 per passenger.
The collaboration between Secret Movie Club and Electric Dusk Drive-In is now screening double features on an inflatable screen every weekend – and the crew just kicked off the series with a killer John Hughes-themed weekend. While they may start mixing up the location, they’re staying put at Glendale Sears parking lot for now. There are lots of different ticket packages available to buy online (including first-row VIP) ranging from $23 to $100 and you can pre-order popcorn, candy, and beverages as well.
The old-school drive-in near Long Beach that first opened in the ‘40s before shuttering in the early ‘90s, reemerged with two new 75-foot screens several years back and has been quietly showing both first-run films and older faves (Goonies is currently on the sked) ever since. The no-frills theater offers a snack bar and tickets are available on site ($10 for adults, $3.50 for kids) on a first-come, first-serve basis, just like the old days.
Distance from Downtown LA: 17 minutes
This four-screen drive-in is open every night of the week, screening four different movies twice in a row (usually around 8:30pm and again at 11pm) each evening. The concession stand is currently closed, so it’s a good time to brush up on your popcorn-popping skills at home and dig into that Costco-size stash of candy you still haven’t gotten through. Tickets (which you buy when you get there) are $10 for adults and $4 for kids.
Distance from Downtown LA: 20 minutes
While it was announced that the 70-year-old drive-in (that got a facelift a little over a decade ago) was sold in 2019 and would close in 2020, COVID has given the place a reason to stay open. The kitschy-themed theater – with its thatch-roof ticket booths and Polynesian statue garden – is now showing both current, classic, and cult flicks on two screens seven nights a week. Tickets are $10 for adults and $1 for kids and give you access to both of that night’s movies, currently starting around 8:30pm and 10:30pm. You can BYO food and drink or hit up the snack bar for popcorn, candy, and carne asada nachos.
Distance from Downtown LA: 37 minutes
Expect pretty much the same experience at this other Inland Empire drive-in, run by the same crew as Mission Tiki, other than the whole tiki part, which has been replaced by an “Old California” theme. That means the same movies, pricing, double-feature perk and even those signature nachos.
Distance from Downtown LA: 54 minutes
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