The drive-in movie experience is a casual and laid-back way to enjoy movies. Instead of going to a traditional theater, you can simply drive your car to the designated outdoor cinema area. You have the freedom to wear comfortable clothes and bring your own snacks and drinks.

Once you park your car facing the large screen, you can choose to stay inside your car or set up chairs and blankets outside. There’s no need to worry about assigned seating or arriving early to find a good spot. You can relax and make yourself comfortable in your own space.

The atmosphere at a drive-in movie is more relaxed compared to a traditional theater. You have the flexibility to move around, stretch your legs, or even chat with your friends and family without disturbing others. It’s a casual outing where you can enjoy the movie at your own pace.

One of the appealing aspects of the drive-in movie experience is the outdoor setting. You get to enjoy the fresh air, starry sky, and the freedom of being outside. It adds a sense of adventure and relaxation to the whole experience.

How did it all start?

According to the New York Film Academy, drive-in theaters have a long history, with the earliest ones appearing in the 1910s. However, it was on June 6, 1933, that the first patented drive-in theater was opened by Richard Hollingshead in New Jersey. Hollingshead created this innovative concept as a solution for people who couldn’t comfortably fit into traditional movie theater seats. The idea stemmed from his creation of a mini drive-in for his own mother.

The success of Hollingshead’s drive-in theater led to the proliferation of more drive-ins across the United States and even internationally. Within two decades, during the 1950s and ’60s, drive-ins experienced a surge in popularity. At the time, there were over 4,000 drive-in theaters spread throughout the country, with many located in rural areas.

Although drive-in theaters are not as popular as they once were, there are still drive-ins in business across the country, including some worth checking out in Michigan. If you’re looking for a casual and nostalgic movie experience, consider visiting these drive-ins for a fun and laid-back outing.

  • Hi-Way Drive-In Theater

    Dating back to 1948, the outdoor movie venue located at 2778 E. Sanilac Rd., Carsonville, is one of Michigan’s long-standing and historic drive-in theaters. Moviegoers can tune in to the movie’s sound through their FM car radios. You can find the updated movie showings of the drive-in theater on their Facebook page.

  • Capri Drive-In Theater

    Located at 119 W. Chicago Road in Coldwater, this drive-in theater has been entertaining audiences since 1964. With the addition of a second screen in 1986, it offers a two-screen theater lot for double the movie options. You can enjoy the films with sound through AM and FM frequencies, or if you prefer, you can rent a portable radio right at the theater. Notably, in 2001, the New York Times recognized it as “One of Ten Drive-Ins Worth a Detour.”  USA Today featured it on their “10 great drive-in movie theaters” list in 2013.

  • Ford-Wyoming Drive In Theatre

    You can find this drive-in theater at 10400 Ford Road in Dearborn. It has been entertaining audiences since it first opened its doors in the spring of 1950. Due to the unfortunate timing of the 70th anniversary with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the theater had to delay its public celebration. As for the current season, the drive-in theater has already started its seven-day schedule for 2023. Exciting new movies and showtimes are posted weekly on their website.

     

  • Summer Drive-In at USA Hockey Arena

    This drive-in theater has three screens. You can also buy tickets online in advance on their website. To listen to the movie, you just program your FM radio. Plus, they have an on-site brewing company with snacks and curbside carryout available for purchase on your phone.

  • Getty Drive-In

    You can find this drive-in at 920 E. Summit Ave. in Muskegon for a drive-in theater experience. This place is part of the Celebration Cinema theater group and has four screens to view movies. Tune in to the movie’s sound through your car radio and check out the playground on-site before showtime.

  • Memory Lane Drive-In Theater

    This newly opened drive-in theater is located at 6501 N. Monroe St. in Monroe. The theater brings back the magic of outdoor cinema to the site of the former Denniston Drive-In. You can tune in to the movie’s sound using your car’s FM radio.

  • 5 Mile Drive In

    Head over to 28190 M-152 in Dowagiac to discover this drive-in theater. It was built back in 1961 and holds a special charm. If your vehicle doesn’t have FM capabilities. They’ve got you covered with radios available for loan. They also have a playground on-site, giving kids a chance to have some fun before the movie starts. If you’re planning a special event, you’ll be happy to know that private party rentals are also available.

  • US 23 Drive-In Theater

    The US 23 Drive-In Theater, where you can enjoy double-feature films every night on three giant screens. Tickets are exclusively sold at the ticket booth on a first-come, first-served basis. You can tune in to the movie’s sound through your car’s FM radio. In case you don’t have an FM radio, they offer portable radio rentals at the concession stand. Marking the beginning of the season, the theater usually opens its doors around mid-April and continues to entertain moviegoers until the end of September. This theater is located at 5200 Fenton Road, Flint.

  • Highway 2 Community Drive In Theater

    The only drive-in theater currently operating in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is located at 5885 W. US Highway 2 in Manistique. This spot opened in 1953 and closed in 2001, but thanks to the Upper Peninsula Film Union, movie nights started again in 2016. They loved it so much that they acquired the property in 2018. Here’s the best part, admission is free. They gladly accept donations. Plus, the concession stand is hosted by nonprofit groups. You can enjoy your favorite snacks while supporting a good cause.

  • Sunset Drive In

    The casual and pet-friendly drive-in theater is located at 69071 Red Arrow Highway in Hartford. Since 1948, this beloved spot has been entertaining audiences with double-feature movies. You can tune in to the movie’s sound using your car’s FM radio or borrow a radio on-site.

  • Cherry Bowl Drive-In Theater

    Head over to 9812 Honor Highway in Honor for a casual and fun-filled drive-in theater experience. This theater, which opened in 1953, not only offers great movies but also features on-site attractions like a playground and mini golf. Additionally, you can enjoy exciting events such as pony rides, clowns, and classic car cruises. Choose between FM radio or speakers mounted on posts for the movie’s sound.

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