The Best Drive-In Movie Theaters Near Atlanta

From the Starlight in East Atlanta to the historic outdoor theater in Jesup, these are the perfect theaters for an outdoor cinematic experience.

For many years, the drive-in movie theater was thought to be a thing of the past. They were extremely popular with the Baby Boomer generation of the ‘50s and ‘60s, and became the thing to do for a weekend date, or a night out with family. The outside movie event began to lose its luster as gas prices rose, along with the advent of the VCR and other at-home viewing options. During its peak, there were over 4,000 drive-in theaters across the country. Now, that number sits at a little over 300. The industry has experienced a bit of a renaissance in recent years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and with social distance still being a thing, there is still a market for your good ol’ fashioned outdoor theater.

Atlanta is home to the historic Starlight, which opened on the Eastside over 70 years ago and still thrives to this day. Throughout the state of Georgia however, there are only four more—each with their own unique vibe and interesting backstory. So, if you’re searching for a good outside movie or two in the Greater Metropolitan area, or a quick getaway to a surrounding city, then look no further.

Blue Ridge
Just a few years prior to the opening of this establishment in 1955, there was no television in the entire city of Blue Ridge, according to the theater’s website, so the demand for movie theaters in the area were at an all-time high. The Swan Drive-In—named after the owner’s admiration for the aquatic bird while stationed in England during WWII—garnered the attention of audiences from several miles away. The success of this theater was significant to the growth of this city in the 1950s, and serves as a reminder of yesterday's beauty, and meeting place for friends, family, and loved ones. Currently, The Swan is open on weekends and only accepts cash. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children. Kids under 3 are admitted free of charge.
Distance from Atlanta: 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Jesup Drive-In
Jesup Drive-In

This place is the oldest of its kind in the entire state, and aims to keep the nostalgic ambiance that has made it so beloved by locals. The Jesup Drive-In Theater opened in 1948, and its car hops will make you feel as if you're back in the golden age of the film industry. Located in an open field in southeast Georgia, it also includes a small playground for the kiddies, so it's the perfect place to bring your entire family. This long standing theater’s two screens are open nightly, and tickets are $5 a piece.
Distance from Atlanta: 3 and a half hours.

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

Moreland Ave
The Starlight is one of the most unique Drive-In joints this side of the Mississippi. In addition to its large, high-quality digital projection system, attendees can also experience their renowned Swap Meet—an eclectic marketplace where vendors from all walks of life can sell products to anyone who is ready and willing to purchase. Another one of the venue’s highlights is its snack bar, which features classic dishes, an amazing selection of Mexican food, and plenty of candy, confections, and cold drinks to make the night even that much more enjoyable. The Starlight Drive-In is open daily, with tickets costing $10 for grown-ups, and $1 for kids between the ages of 5 - 9.
Distance from Atlanta: Located on the Eastside of Atlanta.

This drive-in nestled on the borders of Georgia and Tennessee boasts as the largest outdoor movie theater in the world. Its two 100’ x 50’ screens show double features that you can watch from the comfort of your vehicle, or on lawn chairs or a blanket while you check out the evening’s main attraction from the grass area located on the hillside. The fully stocked concession stand contains burgers, hot dogs, nachos, and more. Except for the winter months, the Wilderness Theater is open all year. You can enter the place at 7:30 pm, and the films begin at 9:15pm. General admission is about $7 per person, and children ages 3 and under get in free.
Distance from Atlanta: 2 hours.

Tiger Drive-In Theatre
Tiger Drive-In Theatre | James McNally/Flickr

After its original opening in 1954, the Tiger Drive-In closed in the mid-1980s when interest in outdoor movie theaters began to wane. In 2004 this establishment reopened, and with it, the fond memories from the youth of an older generation, as well as the opportunity for a much younger demographic to create memories of their own. When you go to a show at this theater, there is a sense of a previous era in the air, but with a modern twist. Here you can watch the newest films on a high resolution projection, powerful outdoor speakers, and a beautiful grass terrace. You can also experience FM broadcasts, Wi-Fi, and access to some of the best food and quality snacks at the TDI Grill. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for children, and free if you’re under 3.
Distance from Atlanta: 1 hour and 45 minutes.

Wherever you are, USA
If you’re not up to traveling to a Drive-In, you can always make one of your own. There are several businesses such as Southern Outdoor Cinema and Showtime Atlanta that offer services to bring the outdoor movie experience right to your front door. These companies provide screens in different sizes, along with skilled technicians that deliver, operate, and present everything—all you need to give them is the film or streaming device. The price ranges for these companies vary, so check out the website of your choice.
Distance from Atlanta: No distance at all.

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Okla Jones is an Atlanta-based journalist who writes about food, fine arts, and entertainment. His work also appears in ESSENCE, Creative Loafing Atlanta, and Consequence of Sound. Follow him on Instagram at @coolhandoak.