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Mission Tiki Drive-In Theatre
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

The best drive-in theater options in Southern California

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

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Written by
Stephanie Morino
&
Michael Juliano
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Looking for a fun date idea? Travel back to a time when going to a movie was a major Friday night activity and enough to land you a second date. We’re not talking about the local multiplex or even some of the newer dine-in theaters that have popped up—we’re talking about drive-in theaters. Yes, they still exist—as many of us were reminded in 2020. In fact, there are a number of drive-in theater options in Southern California that have never gone away and stayed true to those mid-century ways. Skip a romantic restaurant and instead pack a picnic or stock up at the snack bar while you 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.

  • Movie theaters
  • Drive-in
  • Inland Empire
  • price 1 of 4

This 1956 drive-in was slated for redevelopment, but the drive-in renaissance in 2020 has given it some new life. The Mission Tiki started as a single-screen drive-in and then expanded to four screens, with some audiovisual improvements in 2006. Playing off its name, ticket booths were remodeled to look like tiki huts, a Maui statue garden was added and the concession stands were also remodeled with a tiki theme. You can watch some of the latest releases at this drive-in, which is open seven days a week, while enjoying snacks from the concession stand, including pizza, burgers, Mexican food and more.

  • Movie theaters
  • Drive-in
  • Southeast Cities
  • price 1 of 4

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 and digital projection. 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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  • Movie theaters
  • Drive-in
  • San Gabriel Valley
  • price 1 of 4

This drive-in theater, which opened in 1952, shows a wide selection of new releases each week on multiple screens. Depending in the billing, your ticket might get you in for two movies, but 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.

  • Movies
  • Torrance

This mid-century South Bay swap meet hasn’t consistently screened movies since the ‘80s, but the drive-in experience comes alive on most Friday nights with some old favorites.

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  • Movie theaters
  • Drive-in
  • Glendale
  • price 1 of 4

Somewhere between an outdoor screening and a drive-in movie, this seasonal series formerly hosted showings in the heart of Downtown but has since moved to Glendale. The schedule includes a mix of cult classics and recent favorites from the past decade. It used to have an option for an astroturf ticket, where you could sit on the grass, but for not it’s drive-in–only. As if this didn’t sound cool enough already, Electric Dusk is also pet-friendly, so bring your pups!

  • Movie theaters
  • Drive-in
  • Inland Empire
  • price 1 of 4

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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  • Movie theaters
  • Drive-in
  • Inland Empire

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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