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Still a Great Time: A Night at the Drive-In Movie, 2020-Style

Can drive-in theaters make a comeback? Well, they should.

Ed TahaneyWriter, PhotographerGetty ImagesPhotos

Remember drive-in theaters? My parents would pile us all in the car and we'd go to the Route 3 Drive-In in Rutherford, New Jersey (now the Meadowlands), or the Totowa Drive-In off of Route 46. We saw double-features like "Planet of the Apes" and "Food of the Gods," and got popcorn all over my dad's car. Both drive-in theaters had one big screen, plenty of parking, and trashy snack bars—and sadly they have been closed for decades. But no doubt it was a fun way to see a movie with the family, except for the mosquitos and having to sit next to my brothers for several hours.

The first drive-in theater opened in Camden, New Jersey, in 1933. According to DriveInMovie.com, there were more than 4,000 drive-in theaters across the U.S. in the business' heyday; and today there are approximately 325 drive-in theaters still operating. Of course, that number might now actually be reduced since a several drive-in theaters have closed to help slow the spread of coronavirus. However, several of them are still open with social distancing restrictions in place.

A Night at the Drive-In 2020

Recently, I saw Margot Robbie in "Birds of Prey" at the Mission Tiki Drive-In in Montclair, California, and the experience was spectacular. The Mission Tiki has four screens; you can listen to films on your FM radio. For now, guests are not allowed to park vehicles within 10 feet of each other, and you have to watch the movie from inside your car and practice social distancing at all times. Tickets are $10 for adults and $1 for kids ages 5-9.

Drive-Ins Around the U.S.

Many drive-in theaters now offer online ticket sales, and some of them do not allow guests to leave their vehicles. Most concessions are closed, so some facility owners allow folks to bring their own snacks. Driveinmovie.com recommends calling or checking with the drive-in's website to get the latest information and requirements for visiting. The site also allows you to search for a drive-in near you and is a fantastic resource for movie buffs. Stay safe, and don't forget the popcorn.

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My Top Drive-In Movies of All-Time 

  • Planet of the Apes (1968)
  • Easy Rider (1969)
  • Vanishing Point (1971)
  • The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
  • American Graffiti (1973)
  • Towering Inferno (1974)
  • Food of the Gods (1976)
  • Smokey and the Bandit (1977)
  • Star Wars (1977)
  • Superman (1978)
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
  • E.T. (1982)