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LA's Drive-In Movie Theater Renaissance

June 04, 2021

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If we can find any small positives resulting from COVID, one may be the revival of drive-in cinema. Let’s look at the LA drive-in movies that have recently popped up.


Rooftop Cinema Club in Santa Monica

Head to the Santa Monica Airport for some cinema with social distancing, with classic films showing on a 52-foot screen. The audio comes through on an FM station on your car's radio (the case with most every drive-in). And while you're welcome to bring whatever food you want; they also offer concessions with a contact-free system. Depending on the day, the tickets cost between $32 and $48 per car. They also have discount screenings for $10 on select Wednesdays.

The Rooftop Cinema Club's slate of films goes by themes, with lots of well-known titles in the mix. Their 90s Weekend series includes Scream, House Party, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. In the Cult Classic category, we've got Office Space and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Best of the Classics includes Casablanca and Breakfast at Tiffany’s.


Culver City's Drive-In at the Park

LA County Parks has made a deal with the folks at Drive-In at the Park to hold regular screenings at the Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area in Culver City, a wonderful green space for an evening under the stars. Showings usually happen on Friday and Saturday nights and most of the films are family friendly. Some of these include Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Abominable, Toy Story, Big Momma's House, and the 80s classic Gremlins.


Arena Cinelounge for a Hollywood Film Night

Hollywood's Arena Cinelounge, which focuses on art house films, has taken their eclectic slate of screenings outdoors. And, of course, their famous flavored popcorn is available. Will you choose the Australian barbecue Popodile Dundee? Maybe you'll go for the jalapeño taste of APOPalypse Now, the sea salt of Natural Corn Killers, or the sweet chile lime of Crouching Tiger Hidden Popcorn.


Cinespia at the Greek

The historic Greek Theatre, located in LA's Griffith Park, has been periodically turning its parking lot into a pop-up drive-in movie site. They do have a few rules: it's four people to a car, alcohol isn't allowed, and you have to stay in your car, with a restroom exception. Bring your own snacks or order online in advance and have the grub delivered to your car.


Gardena Cinema Takes Things Outside

A single-screen staple since 1946, the Gardena Cinema in the South Bay of Los Angeles County has shifted from indoor showings to their parking lot. Tickets cost $25 per carload. You can bring your own food but keep in mind that their concession stand is open, serving nachos, candy, and the hot-buttered popcorn that goes so well with movie nights. Film examples include Wonder Woman and Terminator 2: Judgement Day.


Paramount for an Authentic Drive-In

No pop-ups here! The Paramount Drive-In, located in the Paramount section of LA, has long been showing drive-in movies on its twin outdoor 75-foot screens. Since 1948! But the Paramount has gotten a serious overhaul through the years, and now boasts a digital projection system and high-end audio that comes through your FM radio. They show first-run films and charge per person: $10 for adults, $4 for kids ages five to eight, free for younger kids.


Multiple Electric Dusk Drive-Ins

Even before the coronavirus pandemic hit the Electric Dusk Drive-In was offering pop-up shows on top of a parking garage in Glendale. They've recently expanded their drive-in screenings to LA's westside at Santa Monica’s Bergamot Station, plus some pop-ups on a rooftop in Downtown LA. Tickets range from $8 to $12 per person, and the films are usually favorites and cult classics such as Pulp Fiction, The Big Lebowski, and Field of Dreams.


The Return of the Roadium

Back in 1948 Torrance's 15-acre Roadium opened as a drive-in theater, lasting for decades. The space fell into disrepair and by the 1980s it was used only for swap meets. The meets are still there, but every Friday night the drive-in movies are back! It'll cost you $30 per car to cruise up and see flicks like Sister Act and Liar Liar.


Hollywood American Legion for a Few Lucky Cars

A pop-up drive-in for just 30 cars, space may be limited at the Hollywood Legion Post 43 Drive-In. But the tech is pretty awesome, with a 4K projection system. And best to leave the kids home with this one, films like The Graduate, Thelma and Louise, and Mulholland Drive are not exactly family friendly.

We’re seeing a slow return to regular life, including indoor movies, all across America. But there’s something special about cinema under the stars. Hopefully these drive-in movies will stick around for a while.

Written by William McCleary for Knockaround.

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