Drive-in movie theaters have made a comeback in the last couple of years! As the pandemic closed indoor movie theaters, drive-ins offered an open and airy alternative. But moviegoers have discovered (or rather, rediscovered) that these outdoor venues deserve our attention even as COVID fears subside. My family has loved visiting drive-ins for years! These film experiences offer families, especially those with small children, a lot of flexibility and a fun way to relax outdoors together. Read on to learn more about Central Indiana’s best drive-in theaters, what to expect when you visit, and what to bring to make your movie night a success for the whole family
Central Indiana’s Top Drive-In Theaters
While outdoor theaters are definitely dwindling in number across the country, Indiana is actually a great place to access a drive-in. There are currently 20 drive-ins left in Indiana, making it one of the top 5 states with the most drive-ins. Chances are you have one closer to home than you think!
480 South Tibbs Avenue, Indianapolis
Tibbs is our family’s go-to due to its proximity to our house. It’s Indy’s only drive-in and worth the trip! During the summer, they are showing movies on 4 screens, Thursday-Monday.
Starlite Drive-In Theatre
7640 S Old State Rd 37, Bloomington
This highly rated seasonal drive-in offers tickets online and free retro movie nights!
Melody Drive In Theater
7055 US-35, Knox
This theater is perfect for those planning a road trip up to Northern Indiana this summer. Reviews rave about cleanliness, good concession food, and movie-themed art.
The Centerbrook Drive-In
6735 State Road 67 North, Martinsville
Open since 1950, this theater features an arcade, playground, and concessions. Open Thursday-Sunday, as well as Tuesdays. This drive-in boasts a large grass field, so bring frisbees, footballs, and blankets.
3986 East Michigan Road, Shelbyville
Skyline Drive-In is open Thursday-Sunday. No outside food or drinks are allowed, but they have a lengthy concession menu with reasonable prices.
What to Expect at a Drive In
Ticket pricing at drive-in theaters is usually very affordable in comparison to traditional movie theaters – most charge $10 or less for adults and $5 or less for children. Some even offer free admission to toddlers and babies. Be sure to verify if your theater accepts credit cards, as some still only accept cash! The pricing usually includes a double feature if you can stay up that late to grab the second show.
Movies begin right at dark, which is no earlier than 9 pm in the summer. You’ll want to arrive with plenty of time to get a good spot. We think 45 minutes is sufficient to get to your spot and settle in. When you arrive, you are given a radio channel to tune in to. We roll down the windows and adjust the volume to our needs.
Plan ahead for your seating arrangement for the show. You will see plenty of lawn chairs, blankets, and trunks open with kids enjoying themselves inside. We’ve seen car seats used as a comfy spot for children, as well as Pack ‘n’ Plays for containing smaller toddlers. Although not entirely effortless, what makes this experience so smooth is the ability to get creative.
All of the drive-ins on this list offer concessions and bathrooms. Where allowed, it’s super easy and convenient to bring your own snacks and small cooler for drinks. This allows everyone to have their favorites. We pop popcorn at home and swing by the store for our own candy. However, keep in mind that many of the drive-ins survive because of concession stand sales. Consider stopping by to see what unique eats they have to offer.
Packing for Success
Be sure to bring bug spray and appropriate shoes as there are usually gravel and rocks. Stash some bags for trash and the inevitable spilled popcorn. The drive-ins don’t allow sparklers or other fireworks, but glow sticks or bubbles would help pass the time until the show starts! Dogs on leashes are welcomed at most drive-ins, so be sure to pack your pup’s favorite items.
We have a lot of great movies coming out this summer and you may be surprised to learn that drive-ins show the same new films as the indoor theaters. For summer 2022, make plans to see Lightyear (June 17), Minions: The Rise of Gru (July 1), Paws Of Fury: The Legend Of Hank (July 15), and DC League Of Super-Pets (July 29). We hope this list has been helpful in planning your first or return trip to the drive-in. It’s a timeless summer tradition the whole family will love.
Summer in Indianapolis also brings a packed schedule of free or cheap movies at local parks and indoor theaters! Check our list here!