Looking for something different to do with the kids? Something bucket list worthy? How about the drive-in? Remember the double features, staying up late watching movies in your jammies under the stars, tubs of popcorn from the snack bar, and, as the night wore on, crawling into the pile of blankets mom brought? Today's kids don't need to miss out on this American institution; though not as popular as they once were, several area drive-ins are still operating, plus LA has a pop-up drive-in, too. Drive-ins are generally cheaper than movie theaters, often show double features, and let you bring your own food. We're fortunate in the Southland to have oodles of free outdoor movies in summer, but there is something uniquely magical about the drive-in.
(Be sure to check out our movie reviews before you go.)
Some things to remember: take plenty of cash, since most locations are cash only. If you have a large or small car, choose a parking spot with care so you can both see and not block anyone else's view. Bring a picnic dinner or snacks—or get snacks from the snack bar. Don't forget sleeping bags or blankets, as it gets chilly out there at night. You can set folding chairs up outside the car as long as you stay within your own parking space. And most drive-ins now broadcast through the radio—if your car does not have a strong battery, consider bringing a boom box to one of these throw-back movie destinations:
Mission Tiki Drive-In
10798 Ramona Ave
Four screens, four double features, every night (one screen is usually PG, one PG-13). The Mission Tiki has undergone refurbishing in the last ten years, so if you went here as a kid, you might not recognize the place. Digital projection, first run movies, radio tuning, and a Tiki theme. No pets are allowed (except service animals); outside food is OK, and chairs are OK as long as you stay in your parking space. See website for show times, snack bar coupons, and tips on how to enjoy the drive-in.
7770 Rosecrans Ave
After a 22 year hiatus, the Paramount Drive-In is in business again! There are two 75-foot screens and digital projection, and a fully stocked snack bar. Staff members will help you park properly to not block anyone's view while getting your own best view. Read the rules for the drive-in before heading out.
Rubidoux Drive-In Theatre
3770 Opal St
The Rubidoux has three screens (one PG) of first-release movies, double features every day, a refitted snack bar, and restrooms. The Rubidoux first opened in 1948 and still has its original screen tower. Check the website for movies and start times, as well as snack bar coupons. Outside food is OK.
Van Buren Drive-In
3035 Van Buren Blvd
Refurbished in an "orange ranch" theme in keeping with Riverside's history, the Van Buren has three screens (one PG) and is open every day. Check the website for show times and snack bar coupons. Give yourself plenty of time to arrive on weekends; this location gets very busy and can sell out.
Vineland Drive-In Theater
443 N. Vineland Ave
City of Industry 92503
Vineland is open seven days a week and has been since 1952. It shows current release double features on four different screens. Films are digitally projected and not 3D; one screen typically features PG movies. The gate opens at 7pm; movies begin at dusk—and on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights the first movie is rebroadcast after the second.
San Fernando Valley Summer Drive-In Movie Nights
Lake Balboa Complex
6335 Woodley Avenue
Van Nuys 91406
This drive-in event is held on weekends in August, and special guests (mostly stars and crew members from the films being screened) also appear. Each evening food trucks (some of which have vegan choices) are on the site, and guests are encouraged to arrive early to enjoy the 26-player arcade game truck, laser tag, the silent disco headphone party, and family board games. All of the fun is included in the ticket price, and each screening benefits the Valley Relics Museum. Gates open at 6:30pm and movies begin at 8:30pm. Pets are not allowed, and kids 3 and under are free—but note that some of the movies are rated R. While you can listen to the movie on your car stereo, wireless headphones are available for $5.
Originally published August 23, 2013