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The best drive-in theater options in Southern California

There just is nothing quite like a drive-in theater. Lucky for us, Southern California still has several in operation.

Photograph: Courtesy Patrick Semansky/West Wind Drive-In Theatre

Looking for a fun date idea? Travel back to a simpler time, when going to a movie was a major Friday night activity and most certainly enough to land you a second date. We're not talking about the ArcLight or AMC, or even some of the newer dine-in theaters that have popped up—we're talking about drive-in theaters. Yes, they still exist. In fact, there are a number of drive-in theater options in Southern California that have stayed true to those mid-century ways. Skip the romantic restaurant, pack a picnic or stock up at the snack bar, and enjoy a flick at one of these classic drive-in theater locations. Enjoy your movie! 

The best drive-in theaters for movie-watching around L.A.


Paramount Drive-In Theatre

If you're looking for a classic drive-in movie theater experience, this is your spot. Paramount Drive-In first opened back in 1947 and operated as a drive-in theater until 1992, when it turned into a swap meet. But the area returned to its roots in recent years, opening with two new 75-foot screens, Barco Digital projection and Dolby Digital radio sound so you can hear the movie on your own radio. There's a full snack bar, but you can also bring in food and drink—though no alcoholic beverages are allowed. You'll see some people watching from inside their cars while others bring chairs and watch from the bed of their truck—no matter your preference, it's always a good time.

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Southeast Cities

Vineland Drive-In Theatre

This drive-in theater, which opened in 1952, shows a wide selection of new releases each week on multiple screens. While your ticket price gets you in for two movies, you can't switch screens—so plan accordingly if you're there to watch more than one movie. Open rain or shine, the drive-in broadcasts in FM Dolby Stereo sound, so a radio is needed. Don't have one? You can rent one from the snack bar—yes, there's a concession stand selling pizza, popcorn, soda and more.

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San Gabriel Valley

Electric Dusk Drive-In

Somewhere between an outdoor screening and a drive-in movie, this series used to host showings in the heart of Downtown, but has since moved to Atwater Village. It's the best of both worlds, because you can park and enjoy the movie from your car or select an astroturf ticket to sit on the "grass" (bring lawn chairs, blankets, etc.). If you're feeling peckish, fill out a snack order sheet and hand it back to your carhop, who'll bring your order right to you. As if this didn't sound cool enough already, Electric Dusk is also pet-friendly, so bring your pups!

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Glassel Park

Van Buren Drive-In Theatre

Built in 1964 as a single-screen drive-in, this Riverside staple now boasts four screens. According to the theater's website, the drive-in underwent a complete renovation in 2006 that included installing FM transmitters and a Technalight projection system. The drive-in features an old California, orange ranch theme which can be seen in the marquee, box offices, snack bar, landscaping and a mural of 1930s Riverside. Like most drive-in theaters, admission is for a double feature, but you're allowed to leave if you don't want to stay for both films. Films include a variety of new releases.

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Inland Empire

Rubidoux Drive-In

Today, this drive-in in Riverside features multiple screens showing the biggest Hollywood films. It started life back in 1948 as a single-screener, and that original, Art Deco-inspired screen is still at the center of the theater today, though the petting zoo, minature railroad and other attractions that drew in the crowds in the early years have gone by the wayside. A full renovation in 2000 brought the theater up to modern movie-going standards and gave the place a bit of vintage Route 66 flair. 

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Inland Empire

Looking for a more traditional movie theater?

The best movie theaters in Los Angeles

Whether you're into arthouse, black-and-white, B-movie bonanzas or the most luxurious assigned-seating cinema/cocktail lounge, this city has it all. Here are our picks for the best.

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