The Best Drive-in Movie Theaters in Michigan
Take a break from Netflix
It’s no secret that 2020 hasn’t exactly been a typical year. Usually, many of us would have been escaping the heat by spending a few air-conditioned hours in the movie theater, soaking in some summer blockbusters. COVID-19 has forced us all to compromise, but sometimes the results shine a light on some overlooked gems. In the case of going to the movies, this means we’ve now discovered the huge, charming drive-in movie theater scene that few Michiganders knew we had. From a Great Lake-adjacent seventy-year-old staple to a big complex right outside the Detroit city limits, here are some of the best drive-ins in Michigan.
Also, please note that while there are more drive-ins inside the state, we left out any that we knew stopped their screenings after Labor Day. We wanted to spare you as much heartbreak as possible.
There are several selling points for the Ford Drive-In. First, they offer the most options in the state, even after they downgraded from nine screens to their current five (that’s still a lot for an outdoor theater -- the indoor megaplexes have spoiled us). Additionally, all five screens show completely different double features, so you get some serious bang for your buck! And they show movies year-round, even touting heaters in the winter.
Be warned that, since COVID-times, the Ford has been extremely busy on weekends. We recommend going on a weekday or, if you must go on the weekend, being sure to get there early.
Distance from Detroit: Less than 20 minutes
Obviously, COVID-19 has had a serious impact on our ability to enjoy sports in-person. But if you’d like the nostalgia of just being near a hockey rink, check out the USA Hockey Arena’s Summer Drive-In. Despite the title, their season extends to October 4 this year. This drive-in offers three screens (just one film apiece, sadly) and take-out from the arena’s brewery and restaurant, CJ’s.
Distance from Detroit: About 30 minutes
If you’re looking to pair your nostalgic drive-in experience with a nostalgic film, the Macomb County Drive-In is for you. Unlike most other drive-ins on this list, this drive-in eschews new releases for beloved classics, ranging from recent hits like Get Out and IT to time-honored staples like Ghostbusters and Grease.
Distance from Detroit: About 30 minutes
The Canterbury Village Drive-In is backed by the (indoor) theater chain Emagine -- which makes it the safest version of Emagine you can go to. Nestled in the idyllic Canterbury Village -- which also holds the iconic Yates Cider Mill -- the array of films at this seasonal drive-in changes every night. They largely specialize in action and/or family-friendly films from the last 15-ish years, and their concession stand offers the almighty Faygo.
Distance from Detroit: About 45 minutes
Flint’s US 23 Drive-In has three screens and, like the Ford Drive-In, each offers up a distinct double feature. Plus, if you’re looking to entertain the whole family, at least one of the options is usually geared towards children. Their newly renovated concession stand offers classics like nachos and cotton candy.
Distance from Detroit: About an hour
The Hi-Way Drive Inn is charming and unique in a number of ways. It opened in 1947, which makes it Michigan’s oldest remaining drive-in. The Hi-Way also wins the award on this list of “Closest to a Great Lake” -- it’s just a 10-minute drive down M-46 from Lake Huron, and so makes a great companion to any camping plans you may have. Screenings at the Hi-Way start at dusk, and although they only have one screen (c’mon, it’s the oldest in the state!), they always offer double features.
Distance from Detroit: Slightly less than two hours
Capri has the distinction of being rated among the top three best drive-in theaters in America multiple times by USA Today. If you’re looking for the quintessential classic drive-in experience and don’t mind a bit of a drive, the charming Capri is definitely the way to go. The Capri has two screens, both of which show double features.
Distance from Detroit: About 2 hours
Like its name suggests, the Sunset is a pretty theater -- it’s perfect for anyone who loves their drive-in experience to be surrounded by trees (but not in the way of the screen, of course). The Sunset offers up a double feature on their single screen and charges admission by the carload -- so if you’ve been quarantining with your family, this one’s a great deal.
Its sister theater, the 5 Mile in Dowagiac, closes after Labor Day -- so definitely double-check the Sunset before you make the drive.
Distance from Detroit: About 2 ½ hours
The Getty is a charming drive-in that offers up thoughtful, wistful double features. It’s the kind of drive-in you’d go to if you want to marathon the Back to the Future movies and then, the next night, check out two newly released thrillers in one go. Their programs change every week, too!
Distance from Detroit: A little under 3 hours
If you have anxiety about leaving the house -- or are just feeling a little lazy -- you’re certainly not alone. Or perhaps you’re more into art films and documentaries? Whatever the case may be, the Film Lab may be the right option for you. They’ve opened up a “digital cinema” that you can stream from the comfort of your own couch. Current offerings include a documentary about reclaiming Pepe the Frog from the darkness and “one of the great masterpieces of psychedelic world animation.”
Distance from your house: None
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