Long thought to be a relic of the past, there are more drive-in movie theaters in New York State than anywhere else in the nation! According to the United Drive-In Theatre Owner’s Association (U.D.I.T.O.A.), as of November 2022, New York tops the list, followed by Pennsylvania and Ohio. During the 1950s, the golden age of drive-in cinema, the U.D.I.T.O.A. estimates there were as many as 4,063 drive-ins across the country. The most dramatic drop in the number of drive-ins occurred in the 1980s when a number of factors such as aging owners, the abundance of other entertainment media, and increasing land values caused many drive-ins to dismantle. The total number left in America is now 302.
Since the late 1990s, the American penchant for nostalgia seems to have caused the number of drive-ins to level off. The pandemic brought a variety of outdoor movie options to New York City in 2020 including the Queens Drive-In at Flushing Meadows Corona Park, the Brooklyn Drive-In at the Brooklyn Army Terminal, and a pop-up theater in the parking of the Bel Aire Diner in Queens. While those venues may not be opening for 2023, there are still plenty of places throughout the state where you can take part in this classic summer pastime. Here, we take a look at 16 of New York State’s oldest and newest drive-in movie theaters, in order of their distance from New York City!
1. Skyline Drive-In (1 Oak Street, Greenpoint, Brooklyn)
Skyline Drive-In theater in Greenpoint is situated on the East River with a stunning view of the Manhattan skyline flanking its movie screen. What makes this drive-in unique is that it’s not just for cars. Pedestrians with chairs as well as guests with bicycles and scooters are welcome to enjoy the film in designated seating areas.