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California Drive-In Movie Theaters You Need to See Yourself

California Drive-In Movie Theaters You Need to See Yourself

Movie lovers, rejoice! You can watch your favorite films under the starry sky at these must-visit California drive-in movie theaters.


8 min read

August 28, 2020

When the retro craze hit the U.S., more and more cinephiles started attending drive-in theaters for an inexpensive fun night. The revival of drive-in movie theaters brought this summer back to life. Amidst the global pandemic, cinephiles have embraced the mid-20th-century trend to watch their favorite films under a sky full of stars.

Watching a movie at an outdoor theater is not just about enjoying the film; the entire open-air cinema experience transports you back to the 1950s. Horror movies become scarier, romantic films more amorous, and comedies a hundred times funnier.

Californians are just as nostalgic for drive-in movie theaters as everyone else, so join in on the new favorite pastime activity making its way into the spotlight of 2020—all while practicing social distancing. Here are California’s best drive-in movie theaters you need to visit.

Drive-In Theater Etiquette: The Dos and Don’ts of Drive-In Theaters

  • Arrive early if you want to be closer to the screen. However, sometimes the best place to park at a drive-in movie theater is by the exit—it's an easy way in and out.
  • You can use your car radio to listen to the movie, but you may also want to consider bringing a portable radio, extra batteries, and lawn chairs. 
  • Many drive-in theaters allow movie watchers to bring their own snacks, but check the rules beforehand just in case.
  • One of the advantages of outdoor theaters is that there is no dress code. Dress as comfortably as possible, and bring an extra jacket in case it gets chilly at night. 
  • Remember that you’re not the only one watching the movie. Turn off your headlights once you find a parking spot. If you’re driving a large vehicle, park in the back in order not to get in the view. Be mindful of children running around, and if you’re bringing your own children, make sure they don’t wander off. Keep conversations short and keep your surroundings clean. 


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Amazing California Drive-Ins

1. West Wind Solano Drive-In

Address: 1611 Solano Way, Concord

Hours: 8:30 p.m., Thursday–Sunday 

Amenities: Snack bars and bathrooms

Pricing: $2–$8.50 per person

West Wind Solano Drive-In is the largest family-operated movie theater chain in the world and is a perfect spot for a date night. Have an incredible outdoor experience watching new and classic Hollywood movies here with your loved ones. West Wind Drive-In has multiple locations around the country, four of which are in California. The drive-in movie theater’s vibe is the ideal combination of old-school and present-day ambiences. Although concessions are closed, you can bring their own food. Upcoming screenings include Black Panther, Deep Blue Sea, The Meg, and Jaws.

2. Vineland Drive-In

Address: 443 Vineland Avenue, City of Industry

Hours: 7:15 p.m., Friday and Saturday and 7:30 p.m., Sunday–Thursday

Amenities: Snack bars and bathrooms

Pricing: $4–$10 per person

Enjoy a night of nostalgic entertainment with your family at Vineland Drive-In. The multiscreen drive-in theater is one of California’s most popular spots.  The outdoor theater operates seven days a week, rain or shine. The Rental, She Dies Tomorrow, and Rebuilding Paradise are a few of the movies being screened this summer. Although the snack bars are temporarily closed due to COVID-19 restrictions, nothing is stopping you from savoring snacks brought from home.

3. Lakeport Auto Movies Drive-In

Address: 52 Soda Bay Road, Lakeport

Hours: Gates open around 7:00 p.m.

Amenities: Snack bars and bathrooms

Pricing: $20 Friday and Saturday, $15 per car Sunday–Thursday 

What better way to enjoy summer nights with friends than by watching a flick at Lakeport Auto Movies Drive-In? This outdoor theater experience is an old-fashioned, relaxing pastime. If you forgot to bring a portable radio, you can rent one. Snack on pretzels, popcorn, and churro bites to enhance your experience. (If you prefer to bring food and beverages from home, you must purchase a $10 permit.) Don’t miss screenings of Spider-Man Homecoming, Kung Fu Panda, Transformers, and cult classic The Addams Family. Get some fresh air, gaze at shooting stars, and have an unforgettable night in one of California’s coolest drive-in movie theaters.

Take your significant other on a romantic date to the outdoor cinema. Snuggle up as you watch your favorite film together.

4. Tahoe Art Haus and Cinema

Address: 475 North Lake Boulevard, Tahoe City

Hours: 7:30 p.m., Thursday–Sunday 

Amenities: Concession stands, bathrooms, and wheelchair accessible

Pricing: $35 for 2 people in the same car ($5 for each additional person)

Tahoe Art Haus and Cinema is more than just a unique drive-in cinema; it offers a lively environment and an exceptional experience for outdoorsy cinephiles. While you’re there, sit back and enjoy live music and dance performances as you snack on non-GMO popcorn. Catch all of your favorite classic movies: Fletch, Mars Attacks, The Wedding Singer, and The King’s Man.

5. Paramount Drive-In Theatres 

Address: 7770 Rosecrans Avenue, Paramount

Hours: 7 p.m–10:30 p.m, Monday–Thursday and 7 p.m–12 a.m, Friday–Sunday

Amenities: Concession stands and bathrooms

Pricing: $3.50–$10 per person

You can never go wrong with a classic Southern California drive-in movie experience at Paramount Drive-In Theatres. Retro junkies come here to revisit cult classics while munching on popcorn, pizza, nachos, and candy. The lot has two large screens, and tickets are sold at the entrance on a first-come, first-served basis. The theater's recent movies include Gremlins and The Tax Collector. This iconic California drive-in theater is a trip down memory lane, offering a one-of-a-kind experience to movie lovers. 

6. Mission Tiki Drive-In Theatre and swap meet

Address: 10798 Ramona Avenue, Montclair

Hours: 6:30 p.m. 

Amenities: Concession stands and bathrooms

Pricing: $1–$10 per person

Gather your friends and family to travel back in time at Mission Tiki Drive-In Theatre and Swap Meet. An all-time favorite, the tiki-themed drive-in theater welcomes movie lovers to experience outdoor cinema in a tropical island atmosphere. Watch cult classics such as Halloween, Candyman, and The Goonies or newer films like Ready or Not. Here, you can find  Mission Tiki Swap Meetan open-air market where over 300 vendors gather to sell everything from wholesale goods to hand-me-downs. The drive-in theater also holds California’s best car shows and annual festivals. After just one visit, you'll be hooked.

7. South Bay Drive-In Theatre and swap meet

Address: 2170 Coronado Avenue, San Diego

Hours: 7:30 p.m. 

Amenities: Snack bars, wheelchair accessible, bike parking, and bathrooms

Pricing: $1–$10 per person

Established in 1947, San Diego’s oldest operating sea-themed South Bay Drive-In Theatre and Swap Meet is a hot spot for film viewing. Bring your friends on board to set sail in an ocean of vintage and new films. Offering high-quality family entertainment, this Southern California drive-in is more about experiencing a film rather than just watching it. Grab your pillows, blankets, and snacks for an out-of-this-world experience.

For your next date night, head on over to the drive-in theater to enjoy a romantic film under the starry night sky.

8. Van Buren Drive-In Theatre and swap meet

Address: 3035 Van Buren Boulevard, Riverside

Hours: 6 p.m. 

Amenities: Snack bars, bike parking, and bathrooms

Pricing: $1–$10 per person

Established in 1964 and named after its location in Riverside's historic Arlington district, the Van Buren Drive-In Theatre and Swap Meet is a real blast from the past. Since there are very few places where you can take the family out and not spend a fortune, this SoCal drive-in theater is a fun place to go without breaking the bank. The four-screen venue is made for getting cozy and enjoying a night of movies as the stars twinkle above you. Whether you bring your own food or purchase food on the spot, the Van Buren Drive-In will definitely leave you impressed. 

9. Madera 2 Drive-In 

Address: 201 East Lincoln Avenue, Madera

Hours: 7:30 p.m. 

Amenities: Concessions stand and bathrooms

Pricing: $4–$10 per person

Madera 2 Drive-In quickly became summer 2020’s popular outdoor theater. The two large screens allow you to appreciate cinematic masterpieces while munching on burritos and churros. Screening both new and old movies, the drive-in's upcoming films include Fast Times at Ridgemont High, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Pineapple Express, The Lost Boys, and Ride Along

10. Skyline Drive-In Theater

Address: 31175 U.S. Highway 58, Barstow

Hours: 7:30 p.m. 

Amenities: Snack bar and bathrooms

Pricing: $4–$10 per person

Movie buffs come to Skyline Drive-In Theater for old-school film-screening experiences while savoring a breathtaking view of the city. A remnant of a mostly forgotten era, the drive-in theater is just the place to watch sunsets as well. Offering a decent selection of snacks, Skyline Drive-In will satisfy your cravings as you watch the films with your loved ones. Upcoming screenings at the outdoor theater include Furious 7, Kung Fu Panda, Baby Driver, and House with Clocks in its Walls

11. Electric Dusk Drive-In

Address: 236 North Central, Glendale

Hours: 6:30 p.m. 

Amenities: Food stand and bathrooms

Pricing: $8–$25 per person and car entrance

Make a stop at Electric Dusk Drive-In while cruising around in Los Angeles, and you won’t regret it. The outdoor theater is a paradise for 80s movie fans—John Hughes films are frequently screened here. Come here with your family for a night of nostalgia, and you’ll find yourself returning every week. The Los Angeles skyline shines behind the movie screen, making your experience as cinematic as possible. Pack a picnic or sample delicious snacks from the food stand. Once you watch a movie here, you’ll understand why drive-in theaters in California are making a comeback.

Wondering how to spend your Friday night? Worry not, your Fridays will no longer be boring because drive in-theaters await you.

12. Rubidoux Drive-In Theatre

Address: 3770 Opal Street, Riverside

Hours: 6 p.m. 

Amenities: Concession stand, wheelchair accessible, and bathrooms

Pricing: $1–$10 per person

One of the oldest theaters in California, the Rubidoux Drive-In Theatre has been operating since 1948. Spice up your weekend plans by watching a movie (or two) here. Be fiscally frugal and bring your own picnic basket, or visit the concession stand for a bite to eat. The Rental, The Big Ugly, and Gremlins are several movies you'll find playing here. 

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