Drive-In Cinemas in 2021: The Revival

In recent years, more and more people are jumping in their cars and making the trip to their nearest drive-in cinema for a unique experience that is making a big comeback.

We take look at the history of the drive-in cinema, why they’re going through a revival - and how you can get involved.

WHAT IS A​ DRIVE-IN CINEMA

A drive-in cinema does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s an outdoor venue with a large screen that friends, families and couples drive to, park up, and watch a great movie from their car. Audiences hear the film by tuning their car radios to a set frequency.

HISTORY OF THE DRIVE-IN CINEMA

By the time drive-in cinemas became a cultural phenomenon, the novelty of watching movies outdoors had long been established. But it was 1950s America – a period in time subject to plenty of nostalgia and homage - in which they really took off and became iconic of that era. 

A classic example of why drive-in cinemas are synonymous with 50s America is the film Grease (1978), where Danny and Sandy go to a drive-in to watch the classic horror film The Blob (1958). 

By the end of the 1950s there were over 4,000 drive-in cinemas scattered across the USA. This is largely due to car technology reaching a point where car-heaters and air conditioning became standard – allowing for drive-in cinemas to stay open all year round.

But with the emergence of video rentals and land sales in the 70s and 80s, drive-in cinemas suffered a heavy decline.

Drive-In Cinema Revival

So why are drive-in cinemas on the rise again?

1. The car ​is the star

Firstly, people love an excuse to get in the car with friends and family and go somewhere new or do something different. So the social aspect of driving plays a huge role in how cars and cinema work together in such harmony to create this experience.

And in the age of home streaming services, drive-in cinemas present the perfect reason to get out of the house, and hit the road.

2. Response to multiplex dominance

Thriving independent cinema experiences, such as Secret Cinema, are proof that people still want the community spirit of cinema-going that may have been lost somewhat to the standardised experience of the multiplexes.

The revival of drive-in cinemas in the UK epitomises this trend, whilst appealing even more to car enthusiasts.

3. The chance to watch classic films on the big screen

Additionally, drive-in screenings present the opportunity for fans of much-loved classics, such as Grease (1978) and Dirty Dancing (1987), to come together and celebrate the film – often in fancy dress or with their classic car from the era.

4. The perfect socially distant activity

With the lack of certainty surrounding when foreign holidays and large-scale events will be able to take place this year, drive-in cinemas provide a fun and safe opportunity to get out of the house and enjoy your favourite movies. In 2020, there were over 10 times the number of established drive-in cinemas compared to the previous year, highlighting their huge increase in popularity and we don't expect this year will be any different!

Drive-In Cinema Highlights

 

Drive-in cinema screenings are being held all over the country this year.

Here are some of the drive-in cinemas and events that we think are worth planning a road trip for this year:

 

The Luna Cinema

The Luna Cinema will be back in 2021 with a new season of drive-in cinema experiences, taking place in some of the UK’s most idyllic settings (think castles and grand manor houses). Get ready to lose yourself in the world of the film, whilst also taking in your stunning surroundings. Visit their website for a full list of locations and screenings taking place this year.

The Drive In, London

Want to experience the buzz and excitement of the West End during your drive-in cinema experience? The Drive In, at Troubadour Meridian Water is a classic American drive-in theatre just 10 miles outside of London’s West End. The Drive In offers a fully contact-free cinema experience, meaning you can focus your attention fully on the action taking place on the big screen. With classic blockbusters and family favourites all on the calendar, there’s something for everyone at The Drive In.

 

The Sharnbrook Hotel

The Sharnbrook Hotel in North Bedfordshire hosts drive-in movie nights that celebrate both cars and cinema. Whilst all vehicles are welcome at the drive-in, there are special spots reserved for special cars. So, if you have a supercar you want to show off, this is definitely the place to do it! Visit the Sharnbrook Hotel website to find out which drive-in cinema screenings and other Petrolheadonism events are taking place this year.

 

Some other drive-in cinema events include:

  • Nightflix Drive-In Cinemas – locations include Colchester, Longmoor, Milton Keynes, Newark and Stoneleigh Park.
  • Moonbeamers Popup Cinema – Moonbeamers are back at Barleylands Craft Village in Billericay with their drive-in movies from mid-April.

Tips for your trip to the Drive-In

Here are some handy tips for getting the best possible experience from a drive-in cinema:

1. Get there early

Aim to get there half an hour early to avoid queues and get your food and drinks orders in.

2. Find out if you can bring your own food and drink

This can save you money if you can pack a picnic to bring with you. There’ll always be some refreshments on site if not.

3. Make sure your radio works

You can only hear the film by tuning in through your car radio. So if your car radio doesn’t create the best audio, you might want to think about going in someone else’s car.

4. Check the age rating of the film if you’re taking the kids

While drive-in cinemas are great for family nights out, film classification rules still apply and you could be refused entry if your children are under age.

So keep an eye out for a drive-in cinema screening near you. They’re great fun and full of nostalgia, so long may their resurgence continue.

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