According to The Awl, there are only about 357 operating drive-in theaters left in the United States. If you live in California, you have your pick of about 18 with a total of 46 screens. Narrowing it down further, Southern California folks have an even more limited choice. Of course, there are three sunny Southern California beach city drive-ins that stand out.
South Bay Drive-in: Open 362 Days a Year
2170 Coronado Avenue in Imperial Beach, 92154
Built in 1958, the South Bay Drive-in features three screens and can accommodate 845 vehicles. Visit the theater’s website for a coupon that entitles you to a free soda. Adults pay $8, and Kids between five and nine years of age only pay $1. Since the drive-in only accepts cash, it is a good idea to stop by the ATM before getting ready to enjoy the movies. When there are no films playing on Wednesday, Saturday and Sundays, there is a swap meet in session. More than 300 vendors sell anything from clothes to toys.
Vineland Drive-in: For Latecomers Who Like to See the Main Feature Again
443 North Vineland Avenue in Industry, 91746
The Vineland Drive-in dates back to the early 1950s. With enough space for 1,700 cars to view movies on four screens, it occasionally gets crowded. Anyone older than nine years pays $9. Children between the ages of five and eight pay $3; younger kids enjoy the features for free. If you are running late – gates open at 6 p.m. on weekends and 6:30 p.m. on weekdays – and miss quite a bit of the movie, do not fret. On weekends, the first feature gets replayed after the second movie. By the way, if you love the swap meet, then you will enjoy the more than 600 vendors who pack in every day. Shopping hours are from 7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Monday and Friday, and until 3 p.m. on other days.
Electric Dusk Drive-in: Pet-friendly Venue for You and Man’s Best Friend
1000 San Julian Street in Los Angeles, 90015
The Electric Dusk Drive-in is Los Angeles’ only drive-in movie theater. This is the kind of place where you can see the old film noir as well as the cult classics. Dust off your pearls for “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” and enjoy “A Streetcar Named Desire” as well as “Pulp Fiction.” Tickets cost between $9 and $13. Enjoy a veggie burger from the concessions stand (hey, it’s L.A.!) and try something new: Astroturf! Bring your blanket and sit right in front of the screen. This is like a movie in the park night – only with better concessions.
How to Enjoy a Drive-in Movie
If you have never been to a drive-in theater, there are some rules of thumb to observe. Arrive early, bring cash and park your truck with the bed facing the screen. Hang out back there with blankets and pillows. Commit to a screen as changing screens is frowned upon. Leave the alcohol at home. This is a family-friendly affair where Coke or Pepsi are as hard as the drinks will get.