Have you ever been to a drive-in theater? There’s nothing quite like watching a movie on a huge screen under the stars with a group of friends or family.

Most drive-in movie theaters have at least one large outdoor screen. Some have several screens. People can watch movies from their vehicles, or they can sit outside in chairs or relax on blankets.

Since it’s hard to see a movie outside during the day, drive-in movies don’t start until after dark. Most drive-in theaters show several movies each evening. Since the price of admission covers all the movies for the evening, drive-in theaters are a better deal than regular movie theaters.

When drive-in theaters first started, the movie’s sound came from large speakers near the screen. However, this made it difficult for people farther away from the screen to hear.

Individual speakers that attached to vehicle windows were invented later. Unfortunately, they had bulky wires that were easily damaged, especially if someone forgot to take the speaker off the window before driving away!

Today, movie sound is usually broadcast through radio signals so that the movie can be heard through vehicle speakers. Some people bring portable radios that let them carry the sound of the movie with them wherever they go.

Drive-in theaters were very popular in the 1950s and early 1960s. At that time, there were almost 4,000 drive-in theaters in the United States. Drive-ins were popular with families who liked to snuggle together under a blanket to enjoy a movie outside.

Drive-in theaters used many interesting ideas to increase business. Some drive-ins installed playgrounds, petting zoos and miniature golf courses for children. To entertain parents, some drive-ins would feature local actors or musical groups before shows.

When televisions and video rentals became popular, though, drive-in theaters saw their business drop. They also suffered when many areas began to adopt Daylight Saving Time because they had one less hour of viewing time in the evenings.

Today, there are less than 500 drive-in theaters in the United States. Many still enjoy steady business from loyal followers who love watching movies under the stars.

If you don’t have a drive-in theater near where you live, you might still be able to enjoy watching movies outside. Companies have invented inflatable movie screens that can be moved from one area to another to show movies in all sorts of outdoor settings.


14 Join the Discussion

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  1. i really like this idea as a fun way for friends and family to get together and enjoy a movie under the stars it’s a nice way to bring the 1950’s back. I love it thanks for keeping the 50’s in counter wish you guys the best <3

    • We’re so glad you enjoyed today’s Wonder, Sharon50! It’s nice to take a step back sometimes and enjoy things that bring back another time! Thank you for your comment! :-)

    • Hi, Kyle! We think watching a newly-released movie in an old-fashioned drive-in would be AWESOME! Drive-ins have age requirements for movies (like the one you originally suggested) just like modern-day movie theaters, so you would need to be old enough to watch or have an adult with you if you’re not!

      Did you check out the link that Duane posted here in the comment section to see if there might be a drive-in near you? Thanks so much for commenting today! :-)

    • That’s a GREAT link, Duane! Thanks so much for sharing it with all your Wonder Friends today. It’s very interesting (and kind of sad) to see all the drive-ins that existed that are now closed. But, it makes us happy to see there are still SOME drive-ins out there for people to enjoy! :-)

  2. I love the idea of backyard movie screenings! The community we used to live in would do a monthly movie at the park. It was really fun sitting around with all of our neighbors, sipping hot chocolate (or other beverages) and watching a movie.

    • Hanging out with good friends and neighbors and watching a movie under the night sky IS such a FUN time, Sugar! We think a backyard movie screening is in order in Wonderopolis this evening! :-)

  3. Dear Wonderopolis,
    First off I just want to say thanks for always giving us true and detailed information in all of your wonders. Our class always uses Wonderopolis to see wonders and identify the text structure in each paragraph. But I do have one question. Our teacher says all writers focus on one main text structure and use that to write the text. So there are two parts to my question. Number one who wrote this article and second the question I listed not long ago.
    I would really appreciate your help!

    • We are so glad you enjoy our Wonders so very much, Lexi! We appreciate your comment and we’re happy to know you are visiting us today! It sounds like you’ve been WONDERing with your classmates, too! What a great way to learn! :)

      We are glad you have been thinking about the structure of writing, too, Lexi! We take turns writing, editing and researching each Wonder– there are a LOT of Wonder Friends at Wonderopolis. We are a team, and each of us contributes to the Wonder. We focus on the topic when we write, and then we decide if we want to describe the topic, compare and contrast, or talk about cause and effect. We Wonder if you are learning about text structure in your lesson? :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • What movie would you play at your drive-in?
  • Why have drive-in theaters decreased in popularity?
  • How many drive-in theaters are there in the United States today?

Wonder Gallery

drive in theatre_shutterstock_5409871Vimeo Video

Try It Out

Want to enjoy your favorite movies in the great outdoors? Make your own homemade backyard movie theater! Even if you already have all the supplies you’ll need, the experience will be more fun if you get the whole neighborhood involved.

Do you know someone with a movie projector? Maybe your neighbors have a portable projector that they use with a laptop computer on business trips? If not, you may be able to rent one from a local store.

For a screen, you can use a portable projector screen like the ones often used for home movies. You might be able to rent one of these at a nearby store, too.

Of course, a real screen isn’t necessary. You can hang a plain white sheet or even use a light-colored blank wall instead.

Add a couple of speakers, and all you’ll need are some comfortable chairs, blankets, pillows and snacks!

Speaking of snacks, no outdoor theater experience would be complete without movie theater popcorn. You can grab some microwave popcorn at the grocery store, or try one of these easy recipes for delicious movie-style popcorn:


Still Wondering

Lights! Camera! Smithsonian! Visit Smithsonian’s History Explorer to check out the sites and artifacts that inspired the film, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian.


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