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Summertime is the best time to hit up a Drive-In Movie! While many theatres were selling off their land to housing developments and shopping malls, there are a few that decided not to sell.
They kept the Drive-In Theatres in Minnesota alive. Thankfully you don’t have to go far to find one anyway. All you need is a little sense of adventure.
You remember going to a drive-in theater when you were a kid. You remember seeing double features, and going to a drive-in movie when it was still summer when it was light outside.
Five Drive-In Theatres in MN
Long Drive-In Theatre
Location: Long Prairie, MN
This Central MN Drive-In Theater offers camping. Yep, you heard right. Tent camping is available onsite for $10 plus the cost of admission.
This feature is great for those that always dread the ride home at night. They do not allow outside food and beverages, but they do have a full-service fast food restaurant on site.
The drive-in theater has a snack bar, feature films, and a refreshment stand. The snack bar offers hot dogs, hamburgers, fries, ice cream, and popcorn. The concession stand offers soda, candy, and hot drinks. The drive-in theater is open May through October.
Sky-Vu Drive-In Theatre
Location: Warren, MN
The Sky-Vu Drive-In Theatre has been around since the 50s. The thing that sets them apart is their concessions. Normally you’d pay an arm and a leg at a theatre, but here they sell full-size sandwiches for less than the cost of a small soda at an AMC Theatre.
Located in the Red River Valley close to Grand Forks. They claim that nothing has changed in their business except the movies now have special effects. Their season starts in April.
Starlight Drive-In Theatre
Location: Litchfield, MN
This is the only Drive-in Theatre in Minnesota to offer two different double feature options playing on separate screens. With four movies a night, you’ll find a combination that works best for you. But you will have to commit to one screen.
Verne Drive-In Theatre
Location: Luverne, MN
A double feature in Luverne MN. The Verne Drive-In Theatre is a staple in the community that brings in people from an hour away. Their low prices for the movie and concessions make you not care that you can’t bring in your own snacks. It brings the nostalgia back.
The Theatre is located just minutes away from Blue Mounds State Park and downtown Luverne. The town is amazing and worth a trip if you haven’t been to Southwestern MN.
Elko Drive-In Theatre
Location: New Market, MN
The newest Drive-In in Minnesota is at the Elko Speedway. After the end of the races, the movie startup. This theatre wants everyone to have fun and therefore sells Alcoholic beverages to those that want to drink responsibly.
They also love tailgating and all kinds of other fun. This is one of two Drive In’s within driving distance of Minneapolis.
Parade of Cars before the Races. July 4th is a great day to sit and watch the races, eat some BBQ and enjoy the entertainment. Order your tickets before you leave.
When Do Movies Start?
Theatres start a few minutes after sundown for obvious reasons. This means in the middle of summer, it’s closer to 9:30-10 before the first showing. Most theatres show 2 movies, but a few will do a Third showing.
This means the last show could be out as late as 3-4 am. Don’t worry, you don’t have to stay the whole time. Actually, about 1/3 of all cars leave after the first show to get the kids to bed.
Speaking of kids, if they are showing a kid’s movie, it’s the first one of the night. Then the more explicit movies will come later in the night as people start to leave. There are 15-30 minute breaks in-between movies so you can resupply any food, or stop at the potties.
The theatre will list the order of the shows on the theatre times. If you ever do need to leave early, keep your lights off as to not disturb the other people watching a show.
In Colder Climates, like Minnesota, the season is usually just during the summertime. Down south, they extend the season a little.
How to Get the Best Viewing Experiences?
You have a few options.
Vehicle Forward Facing
Great for two people. Yes, you can have more people in the car, but then you run into the problem of the people in the back trying to see past a front seat.
So they inevitably sit on the hump and argue the whole time. If you have more than 2, stick with parking the car backward.
Car Rear Facing
The backward method is my favorite when you have more than two people watching a movie. Open up the hatchback, throw down an air mattress and pillows and it’s like watching a movie in bed.
To be curious of your fellow patrons, tie-down any hatchbacks so they don’t extend past the top of your car.
Truck Rear Facing
By far my favorite way to watch a movie is in the back of a pickup truck. Throw an air mattress in the bed of the truck, add some pillows and blankets and you’ve got a movie under the stars. There is nothing better! This is ideal for a couple of people.
A favorite among people with more than a couple of people in the car. Set the chairs out in front of your car and enjoy the movie.
The biggest downside to this is that you are exposed to the elements and you need to have a comfortable chair. The $10 foldup ones won’t do. Consider a Zero-gravity one that allows the viewer to lean back.
People are always readjusting their cars when they get there to find the optimal spot.
What to bring to a Drive-In?
There are a few things you should bring to any Drive-In Theatre.
Until you’ve tried to walk back from the bathroom and tried to find your car, you’ll never understand just how important this one is.
Come to think of it, make a mental note of your car before you leave it with its location. When it’s dark, they all look the same.
With all the snacks being consumed, it’s best to have a place to keep everything.
Battery Operated Radio
Most Drive-In Theatres will supply a speaker for each spot. Sometimes you’ll see a mix of spots with and some without. As an alternative, the Drive-Ins will also broadcast the movie on a radio channel to get through your car.
The downside of that is that they will drain your battery. That is where the battery-operated radio comes in! If you do end up draining the battery, check with the concessions to see if they have a jump.
Blanket and Pillows
It doesn’t matter how warm it is during the day, nighttime gets cold. A good blanket for each person is a must, especially if you have kids that might want to fight over having plenty. You can also bring one to throw on the ground.
Dress in Pajamas, sweatshirts, and whatever else you find comfy. But make sure you have plenty of layers. Summer nights can get cold.
In Minnesota, you should never run out of supply in your car! If you don’t want to use Bug Spray, another great alternative is to treat your clothing with Permethrin.
The chemical will keep bugs away and last up to 6 washes or 6 weeks. We put this on all our camping clothing and summer hoodies and pants.
Extra things you may be able to bring
Every theatre has a few different rules for obvious reasons. But if you can bring these, do so!
Tailgating is part of the magic of a Drive-In Movie. Bring the ball to toss around, or bean bags, or anything to keep you busy as you wait for your movie to start.
Showing up an hour or even 30 minutes early with little kids will feel like an eternity if they don’t have something to entertain themselves with.
Most theatres will have some grass near the front to kick around a ball. Otherwise, right in front of your car is good too. There are some great compact games like Ring Toss.
Snacks are a staple of any movie, but the joy of a Drive-In Theater, is you don’t have to hide anything. Bring it all in. Fast Food, Grill for Burgers, junk food, or homemade popcorn.
Of course, there’s usually a concession booth selling other great treats but go wild on this one. My personal favorite was bringing in a couple of pints of Ben and Jerry’s.
It goes without saying that Sodas are probably the most expensive thing at a theatre. But all that changes when you can bring in a Cooler. Just think of the possibilities! Make sure to pace yourself for movie two.
Or bring a red bull for the ride home, especially if you aren’t normally a night owl.
Being old school and all, a lot of the theaters run a cash-only business. Usually, you’ll find a cash machine nearby just to cover you, but still… avoid the fees and bring some to get you through.
If you are planning on watching the move out of your hatchback, the door should not exceed the height of your car. Bring a small rope or twine to keep it low enough as to not obstruct the person behind you.
Ready to Make Memories?
Every year I wonder if this will be the last year the theatres will be open. With the addition of Elko’s Drive-in Theatre and little pop-ups around the Twin Cities, they may be making a comeback. The re-emergence of Drive In Movies is staying strong in Minnesota as social distancing is still in effect.
Thankfully Drive In Theatres around Minnesota have all been able to come up with ways to keep you safe and still let you celebrate this tradition. For more great things to do this summer, make sure to check out all the fun things you can only do in Summer in MN.